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Underinvestment in ‘frontline’ managers will lead to a mental health crisis in employees

New CIPHR poll reveals most important aspects of a job

79% of employers and HR professionals have not trained line managers to support employees with mental health and wellbeing issues

According to a recent WorkNest poll, almost eight in ten (79%) employers and HR professionals have not provided line managers with training to support employees with their mental health and wellbeing. This is despite most (93%) employers being aware of their mental health and wellbeing responsibilities. 

Notwithstanding the effects the pandemic has had on employees’ mental health regarding loneliness, 38% of employers and HR professionals also admitted to not taking steps to combat employees’ loneliness and isolation when working from home. 

While two-fifths (42%) of employers and HR professionals have implemented measures to combat loneliness and isolation, only one in ten (12%) of those that have not implemented such measures said they were planning to tackle it.

Research into Google’s online search habits also shows a significant growth of employees suffering from loneliness over the past four years, emphasising the necessity of providing employees with mental health and wellbeing support.

Online searches for ‘loneliness working from home’ rose by 76% over the past four years (data analysed between August 2018 – July 2022). Further data also revealed that ‘loneliness or isolation in the workplace’ searches online increased by 26%. With some employers yet to implement measures to tackle the loneliness of workers, it must get pushed higher up the priority list.

Rob Evans, Senior HR Consultant at WorkNest, commented:

“It is worrying that a large majority of employers have not provided training to line managers to support employee mental health and training. For managers, learning to deal with and address any wellbeing issues in staff is vital to creating a well-supported team. Mental health affects how everyone thinks, feels, and acts, but it also helps to determine how employees handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. In addition, ensuring employees feel safe to communicate and express any issues they are experiencing is crucial. Finally, line managers need to understand any impacts their team’s mental health may have on normal day-to-day activities in the workplace.”

Line managers play a principal role in supporting employee wellbeing. By getting to know their team well and encouraging open communication, line managers are better placed to spot any changes in team members’ behaviour. If equipped with the right skillset, they can manage issues and offer support before the employee reaches a crisis point. However, due to the pandemic and employees working remotely and in a hybrid manner, mental health issues have been much harder to spot as the opportunity to notice visual clues that are far easier to detect in the workplace can be missed.

Evans continued, “Upskilling line managers with mental health and wellbeing training could be an easy win for employers; however, it’s still not the full solution. Employers and HR professionals must build a culture in the organisation that encourages open communication so employees feel comfortable raising any issues. We predict these softer skills in handling mental health and wellbeing in the workplace will increase in demand as the cost-of-living crisis starts to bite.”

“An employer has a legal responsibility to consider making reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of that employee suffering from mental health issues. When the condition is long-lasting and has a substantial and adverse effect on an employee’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, poor mental health could be classed as a disability. Line managers’ support does not stop there; they must learn to manage employees with different working arrangements (remote, hybrid and office workers). All these employees will have different circumstances, and therefore, different requirements in support required.” 

Research by WorkNest, the employment law, HR consultancy and health and safety support firm, questioned 130 employers and HR professionals on employee wellbeing issues between June – August 2022.

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