Nearly half of UK organisations say mental health not a cultural priority, despite COVID-fuelled surge in demand from staff

5th May 2021

New report from Koa Health finds that over two in five (43%) of companies agree that mental health is not a cultural priority despite over half of UK organisations (56%) seeing an increase in employee demand for mental health support

Koa Health, a digital mental healthcare provider offering personalised employee solutions, today launches a new report titled Wellbeing at Work, exposing the impact of COVID-19 on mental health in businesses across the UK and organisations’ response to the crisis. 

Social listening research conducted by Pulsar on behalf of Koa Health showed that as COVID took told in the UK, content shared online about people’s declining mental health increased by 400% in the period from the last week of February 2020 to the final week of May 2020. 

The concerns that people expressed online were mirrored in greater demand for mental health support, with 56% of UK organisations experiencing an increase in demand for such services during the pandemic[1]. As a result, HR Managers had to spend on average almost a third (30%) more of their time each month on mental health support for employees than before the pandemic.

In response to increased demand from employees, 72% of UK companies increased2 the level of mental health support since COVID-19. Further, over the next year, two thirds (66%) plan to increase[2] the level of mental health support they provide. However, despite increasing investment and a greater recognition of its importance, mental health and wellbeing is still not firmly embedded into business culture. Over two in five (43%) of companies in the UK agree[3] that mental health is not a cultural priority, rising to just over half (51%) of companies with a £100 Million turnover or higher. Meanwhile there are further signs of disinvestment in mental health; 6% of companies with a £100 Million or higher turnover and one in nine (11%) companies with 3,000 employees or more are planning to decrease[4]4 the level of mental health support in the next year.

Dr. Oliver Harrison, CEO of Koa Health, said

COVID-19 has challenged workplaces in unimaginable ways. Employers and employees not only had to come to grips with a new way of working almost overnight, but had to adapt for an indefinite period of time. Supporting employees through the COVID-19 crisis is likely to prove the greatest challenge of many organisational leaders’ and HR managers’ careers. While our report found that many have risen to the challenge, it’s alarming that many organisations still do not see mental health as a cultural priority at their organisation, and that they plan to reduce investment in mental health support at such a critical time for UK employees as they consider returning to offices. Having gone through so much change and turmoil in the past 15 months, organisations must listen to their employees and take action to address their mental health concerns.”

As lockdown restrictions lift and UK organisations consider a wider return to the office, the appetite for remote working is expected to remain high, with 46% of HR managers agreeing3 to expecting the majority of employees to remain predominantly working from home for the next year. Almost half (49%) of HR managers agree3 that it’s harder to know if an employee’s wellbeing is good when working remotely, while 51% agree3 that remote working has made it easier for an employee’s mental health to ‘fall through the cracks’.

Some companies have put in place new solutions to support mental health for staff. The research found that UK companies which tailor mental health support to both their company’s and individual’s needs reported a smaller demand in surge for mental health support than those that did not offer this personalisation. 

Dr. Oliver Harrison, CEO of Koa Health, added:

“The rest of 2021 will be critical for staff wellbeing, as UK organisations shift back to a new kind of normal, with hybrid working widely expected to take hold for a lot of sectors. Organisations’ response to the aftermath of the pandemic and this shift to a new normal will make or break individuals’ mental health, not to mention company productivity. With economic recovery predicted to be slow amid ongoing uncertainty, ensuring all workforces are as productive as possible will be a high priority for HR managers over the coming year.”

Methodology

Using the social listening and audience analysis platform Pulsar, we created search terms around working from home, remote working and WFH and the return to the office. These were all anchored to terms such as stress, anxiety, creativity, productivity, switching off, burnout and support to analyse the relevant conversations and posts online in the UK and the US. Data points include Twitter, Facebook (public groups only), Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, blogs, forums, news, reviews, Amazon, Reddit. All data was collected between January – April 2021 and covered the period between 1st February 2020 to 31st March 2021.

Parallel to our social listening research, we commissioned Censuswide to interview 1,004 HR managers in the UK and US from companies of 250+ employees, with 5% from companies of 4,000+ employees, across all sectors. Of these 1,004 companies, 504 were UK-based, and 500 were US-based. The HR managers interviewed spanned 17 sectors, including retail, technology, law, finance and insurance. All responses were collected between 1st March to 10th March 2021. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

About Koa Health

Koa Health is the only digital mental healthcare provider that offers integrated mental health solutions, from improving wellbeing to supporting treatment for a range of common mental disorders. Koa Health’s solutions are personalised services with proven user outcomes. Backed by investors including Telefónica, Ancora Finance Group and Wellington Partners, Koa Health leverages technology and research to enable people to change their behaviours with effective and accessible support that adapts to their unique circumstances. Headquartered in the Netherlands, Koa Health has operations in Barcelona, the US and the UK. Koa partners with leading clinicians and academics including Massachusetts General Hospital, University College of London, the London School of Economics, Birmingham and the Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

For more information, please visit www.koahealth.com


[1] Censuswide survey commissioned by Koa Health over 1,004 HR Managers in the UK and US

[2] ‘Increase is the combined stat of ‘Somewhat increase’ and ‘Substantially increase’ to the corresponding statement

[3] Throughout, ‘agree’ is the combined stat of ‘Strongly agree’ and ‘Somewhat agree’ to the corresponding statement

[4] ‘Decrease’ is the combined stat of ‘Somewhat decrease’ and ‘Substantially decrease’ to the corresponding statement

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