With the UK public’s life satisfaction falling for the first time in eight years, how can employers help their staff through times of political and economic turbulence?
According to new research on personal and economic wellbeing in the UK by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), life satisfaction fell between July to September 2019 compared with the year before, as concerns about future employment prospects grew.
This is the first time since the ONS started measuring wellbeing in 2011 that both life satisfaction and feeling that things done in life are worthwhile significantly fell when compared with the year before.
Louise Aston, wellbeing director of Business in the Community, a charity and The Prince’s Responsible Business Network, says, “It’s ironic that such bleak data about the deteriorating state of many people’s sense of wellbeing emerged on Time to Talk Day [the national day that encourages people to talk about their mental health]. This unsettling data underlines the human impact of relentless political and economic uncertainty.
“For both Life Satisfaction and Worthwhile ratings to fall sharply on the previous year for the first time shows how political and economic turbulence can have a powerful effect on people’s mental health. This report shows that the national sense of happiness is doing downhill and high levels of uncertainty are set to continue.
“This is why, now more than ever, it’s important that employers acknowledge that many employees will be experiencing elevated anxiety and a deterioration in their wellbeing, and foster a culture that proactively supports the wellbeing of their people by providing environments where colleagues can make informed choices about taking care of their physical, mental, financial and social health.”
Employers can do more to support workers
A YouGov survey of more than 4,000 employees by Business in the Community in late 2019, in partnership with Mercer Marsh Benefits, found that most employers do not acknowledge or deal with the adverse impact work has on employees’ mental health. The survey found that two in five (39 per cent) UK workers experienced symptoms of poor mental health related to work in the last year and more than one in four (27 per cent) employees fear negative consequences if they make their mental health issues formal.
Ms Aston adds, “It’s crucial that employers foster organisational cultures where it’s okay not to be okay and where people can talk openly without fear of stigma. While mental health awareness has risen significantly in recent years, our research shows that too many employers are tinkering at the edges of change rather than making the fundamental differences that are needed to improve their employees’ mental health.”
Find out about The Mental Health at Work Commitment, which has set out key standards that will improve employees’ mental health.