As the phased return to the workplace continues, workers are reevaluating whether their current job provides them with the supports they need.
New research shows that over the course of the pandemic employees' overall mental wellbeing has deteriorated and many are looking to find work in an environment that prioritises good mental health.
Among 18-34 year olds, 45% are planning to change their jobs in the coming year and one in three of these are seeking an employer that provides adequate mental health resources to support better mental wellbeing.
Mental health issues are a serious and widespread problem in the workplace with Laya Healthcare's latest Brave New Era report revealing 46% of referrals into occupational health are for mental health reasons.
Almost half of workers reported feeling lonely and isolated in the past year while 46% have struggled to get a good night's sleep and almost a quarter have experienced sustained levels of anxiety.
During 2021, HR leaders have reported an increase in productivity but the report suggests that this has come at the cost of employees' mental health, morale and motivation.
Since the last Brave New Era report in September 2020, overall mental wellbeing has decreased by 19%, morale is down 23% and motivation has reduced by 17%.
With 60% of employers hoping to increase the number of new hires made over the coming months, they are being urged to take the mental health concerns of their staff into account.
"Supporting the mental wellbeing of employees can no longer be a ‘nice to do’; it is essential to building a healthy and sustainable workforce that is able to support businesses growth ambitions,” said Sinéad Proos, Head of Health and Wellbeing at Laya Healthcare.
The findings of this latest report paints a stark picture, says UCC professor, John Gallagher.
"It is clear that employers need to do more to intervene at the very earliest signs of a mental health issue to offer supports that can help a person to get back on track and reduce further deterioration of their mental health," said Prof Gallagher, Specialist in Occupational Medicine.
Among the main issues that needs to be addressed is the perceived stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace.
Almost 60% of employers stated that there is still stigma while 40% of employees agreed with this view.
The issue was found to be more prevalent in the manufacturing industries where three-in-five workers admitted they hadn't sought help for anxiety or other mental health issues.
Chartered psychologist Dr Sarah O'Neill said the perceived stigma is a barrier for many people when it comes to seeking support.
"In addition to providing mental wellbeing support services, the existence of the benefits provided needs to be communicated to employees. Employees need and expect mentally healthy workplaces," said Dr O'Neill.
The head of a HR platform has said that employers need to be mindful that a return to the workplace will bring up feeling of anxiety and stress for many employees.
Employers will have a plethora of Covid-19 safety duties to address if they opt to bring people back to the office, said David Kindlon, CEO of Eppione, and key among these is the duty to provide the proper mental health supports.
Employers should begin consulting with their workforce to understand attitudes towards attending the workplace, something he said should be done sooner rather than later.
Mr Kindlon said doing so will give businesses the opportunity to redefine a Return to Work policy that is in line with the needs of their unique workforces and allowing for a smooth transition back to the workplace that is as safe and stress-free as possible.