New study found the number of people unfit to work due to mental health surges during the coronavirus lockdown
Over the past 14 months, the mental health of employees has been at an all-time high, which creates an additional burden for employers struggling to address the challenges of COVID-19. Mental health is a crisis of our time that must be addressed. Surprisingly, it has received less attention in the news probably because of the negative stigma that comes with it.
According to the Mental Health Index by Total Brain and the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, Employees reported a 48% increase in the risk of depression between November and December.
Now, research from NTT DATA UK also found that subsequent COVID-19 lockdowns have resulted in an increased number of fit notes issued for mental health reasons. A fit note is an official written statement from a doctor giving their medical opinion on a person’s fitness for work.
In England, for example, the research found that the first COVID-19 lockdown lasted from 23rd March to 4th July. The second set of restrictions began in October and extended to a second full lockdown from November 5 to December 2. Both lockdowns coincided with an increase in the proportion of fit notes issued for mental health reasons, according to the latest data issued by NHS Digital and analyzed by NTT DATA UK. Unfortunately, the UK is still planning to issue another lockdown.
Mental health-related illness was already on the rise in the workplace. From 2015 to 2019, it grew as a proportion of workplace illness by one percent on average year on year. However, this surged by over four percent in 2020.
As many workers start to consider returning to the office, these statistics show that employers must support their staff emotionally.
Vicki Chauhan, Head of Public Sector at NTT DATA UK, commented on the findings: “Employee wellbeing has always been of crucial importance in the workplace. This research shows that it’s now more important than ever to put our mental health first after the effects that subsequent lockdowns have had on our emotional wellbeing.
“At NTT DATA, we provide our staff with support from trained mental health first aiders, share useful content on mental health management, and have mental wellbeing ‘champions’ embedded within our teams. To promote wellbeing and self-care, we encourage regular breaks during the day and also offer free virtual yoga and meditation sessions. Most importantly, we urge our employees to reach out if they are struggling.
“As we start to consider plans for the ‘return to work,’ employers must remain conscious of the mental health challenges facing their staff and ensure they are supported during what will undoubtedly be an emotional return to the workplace.”