Mental health warning linked to work

A new survey warns that mental health linked to work was already bad before lockdown and is likely to further deteriorate.

Woman leans on a table looking depressed


Work has made our wellbeing worse over the last two years with the pandemic likely to exacerbate the situation, according to new research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

A survey of more than 6,000 workers found the number of people saying work has a positive impact on their mental health has fallen from 44 per cent to 35 per cent.

The survey comes as the CIPD releases its annual Good Work Index report. It assesses seven key measurements that contribute to job quality over the long-term, including: pay and benefits, contracts, work–life balance, job design, relationships at work, employee voice and health and wellbeing.

The report highlights that, as the COVID-19 crisis was about to hit the UK, there were already red flags about the impact work was having on wellbeing. As well as the general downward trend in work-related health, a number of workers said they were always or often at work:

  • Exhausted (22 per cent)
  • Under excessive pressure (21 per cent)
  • Miserable (11 per cent).

A third of people (32 per cent) also said their workload is too much in a normal week and a quarter of people (24 per cent) say they find it hard to relax in their personal time because of work.

The report shows that people’s jobs are having a serious impact on their mental health. Of those who’ve experienced anxiety in the last year, 69 per cent say their job was a contributing factor. Of those who’ve experienced depression, 58 per cent said the same was true.

The CIPD is warning that the COVID-19 crisis is only likely to heighten all these issues. An updated snapshot survey with 1,001 workers shows 22 per cent said it was likely they would lose their job in the next year,  43 per cent of those with a mental health condition say the pandemic has contributed to or worsened their condition and 29 per cent of those with anxiety say the pandemic has contributed to or worsened their condition.

In response, the CIPD is recommending that employers promote healthy working practices, including asking about workloads and ensuring employees are not under excessive pressure, ensuring managers are well trained in having supportive, sensitive discussions on wellbeing – and that they recognise the importance of regular communication in a world of remote working and promoting existing health and wellbeing benefits, such as their counselling helpline. It also calls on employers to give workers more autonomy or control over how, when and where they work, to help them manage work pressures.

Jonny Gifford, Senior Research Adviser at the CIPD, said:  “Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, work was becoming worse for our health. This is the complete opposite of how it should be – work can and should have a positive impact on people’s lives.

“As the full scale of the economic crisis unfolds, the outlook looks even bleaker. We’ll likely see employers trying to do more with less, which will only increase people’s workload and the pressure they are already under. Many people will also be worried about losing their job or living on a reduced income.

“While the Government is right to focus on protecting as many jobs as possible, it should also be encouraging employers to look at job quality. Not only is there a moral imperative to do so, but if people are happy and healthy in their jobs they also perform better, take less time off and are less likely to drop out of the workforce. In the long run, this will help us get on the road to economic recovery sooner.”

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