Emma Finamore, Editor, AllAboutSchoolLeavers.co.uk

A staggering 4.3 million UK employees report being unhappy at work – 13% of us nationwide – and over 15,000,000 days are lost per year due to reported mental health problems caused or worsened by work.

The findings come from research conducted by Robert Half UK published this year, and shows how our workforce is becoming increasingly held back by mental health problems such as stress, depression and anxiety. 

According to this research, the UK has the highest rate of unhappiness in the workplace among the countries surveyed, including Canada, Australia, Germany and 4% higher than in the US. The research found that one in three (31%) UK respondents admit to finding their work stressful, while one in 10 (12%) employees say they are dissatisfied with their work–life balance.

This is having a significant impact on the UK’s labour force and productivity. Data from the Health and Safety Executive’s Labour Force Survey shows that over 15,000,000 days were lost over a 12-month period due to reported mental health problems caused or worsened by work, such as stress, depression or anxiety.

This accounts for over half (57%) of total missed days due to self-reported illness, while burnout caused by stress and anxiety is responsible for over two fifths (44%) of all reported illnesses in the workplace.

The picture is brighter when looking at apprenticeships. Research carried out by Skills Development Scotland in October last year revealed high levels of well-being among apprentices – higher than the general population – on satisfaction, worthwhile and happiness measures.

High levels of personal and career development were also reported in the survey that looked at 2,000 individuals who left their apprenticeship between one and three years ago, showing an increase from previous findings looking at outcomes in the short term. Apprentices said they’d gained confidence and knowledge through their apprenticeship, and participating in one has increased opportunities in their career.

In May, the well-being offered by apprenticeships was celebrated, and employers exceeding in the field were acknowledged for their work. The School Leaver Awards – based entirely on the opinions of apprentices and school leaver trainees from 100 UK organisations – looks at apprentice employers and everything about their training programmes, from skills development and career progression to training and company culture.

This year McDonald's was named Top Employer for School Leavers overall, as well as coming top in the Job Satisfaction category. The fast food chain has specific things in place that make it a good place to work and result in positive experiences for their employees. Performance reviews take place three times in the first year, for example – new employees feel supported and can see how their careers are progressing – while the flexibility of Mcdonald’s as an employer is also good for wellbeing.

Over 85% of McDonald’s employees say they love the flexibility their job offers them, and in November 2017 they were awarded the Top Employer for Innovation in Flexible Working by workingmums.co.uk.

National Grid and Mediacom were also acknowledged for giving great job satisfaction to their apprentices – coming second and third respectively in that category – while Dentons, Charles Russell Speechlys and Bank of America Merrill Lynch were awarded first, second and third place in the Level of Support category.

Support is vital in combatting stress and anxiety. Dentons apprentices, for example, are supported by a supervisor and a Human Resources Manager throughout the six-year programme. They’re also allocated a Personal Tutor and Student Manager who supports and monitors progress, assisting with their portfolio of workplace evidence.

Each group apprentices work in they are assigned a dedicated supervisor who ensures they’re developing the required skills and knowledge, and trainees receive support from Human Resources throughout their apprenticeships.

Given the recent findings about mental health issues in work, UK employers could learn a thing or two from support systems like these that some apprentice employers put in place – they could improve the working lives of a lot of people.

Emma Finamore, Editor, AllAboutSchoolLeavers.co.uk

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