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Covid-19 has had an enormous impact on people’s lives both in and out of the workplace. Job losses, furlough, social isolation and nationwide uncertainty about the future has had disastrous consequences for the UK’s mental health.

What’s more – what we’re currently seeing could be just the tip of the iceberg.

Poor mental health costs employees and employers

Mental health issues costs UK employers £42 – 45 billion a year, compared to £33 – £42 billion in 2017 according to a 2020 Deloitte report.

Unlike physical conditions like arthritis or eczema, you can’t necessarily see mental health issues with your eyes – yet anyone can be a victim.

The Office of National Statistics has found that almost half of Great Britain (49.6%) has reported high levels of anxiety in 20201 and 30.9% (7.4 million adults) reported their well-being had been affected through their feeling lonely in the past seven days.2

What’s getting people down?

There are numerous pandemic-related factors that are currently impacting people’s mental health.

An increase in remote working has led to:

  • Work / life balance issues
  • Social isolation
  • Perceived lack of recognition and support
  • Poor physical health (MSK conditions)
  • Health anxiety about returning to the office


  • Increased pressure at work and at home
  • Social burnout (now that social distancing measures have loosened)

A rise in addictions, especially:

  • Gambling
  • Drinking
  • Smoking
  • Poor diet

Bereavement and grief

  • Losing a loved one to Covid-19
  • Increase in suicide rates
  • PTSD

Anxiety and depression

  • Crowds / public transport
  • Risk of getting ill
  • Social isolation
  • Children/education/schooling
  • Social media
  • Long Covid

Money worries

  • Furlough
  • Redundancy
  • Being unable to see a medical professional

 In August 2019 average wait time to see a GP was over two weeks3 while one in six of the population could be on the NHS waiting list for treatment by April 2021.4

  • Undiagnosed conditions, both mental and physical
  • Increased anxiety
  • Worsening physical and mental conditions as a result

What can the employer do about the mental health crisis?

It’s clear from this long list of stressors that some kind of systemic support is in order, or employers risk vast mental health related costs down the line, including sickness absences and poor staff retention. That being said, only 24% of managers are trained to spot the signs of mental illness.5

Luckily, good mental health and wellbeing can be achieved through simple, practical steps. However, it’s important that these changes aren’t treated as tick box exercises and are instead integrated into the company culture.

Steps your business might take to improve the mental health of the workforce:

  • Healthy food in the canteen or office
  • Gym membership, virtual exercise classes and/or access outside
  • Encourage regular breaks
  • Mental resilience training
  • Mental health awareness and first aid training
  • Flexible working patterns where possible
  • Colleague forums and networks
  • Manager support and training – lead by example but also ask for help when needed
  • Consistent, relevant communications

Intermediaries offer some of the most robust employee support services around, including:

  • Employee assistance programmes (EAPS; via insurance products or as a standalone)
  • Virtual GPs (via PMI, cash plans or standalone)
  • Income protection policies
  • Employee surveys
  • Health risk assessments
  • Employee screening programmes

If you would like to know more about how you can support employee mental health, please join me on Tuesday 5 October for my webinar: Is workplace wellbeing in the eye of the storm?

Alternatively, you can contact me directly at [email protected]


Author: Debra Clark, Head of Specialist Consulting, Towergate Health & Protect | [email protected]

Debra is the head of specialist consulting at Towergate Health & Protection.  She has been in the employee benefits industry for over 25 years now working in a number of specialist intermediaries and in all roles has been dedicated to delivering first-class service to clients – whether they are individual, large corporates or SME business clients – to ensure maximum retention and growth.  She is passionate about mental health and all forms of wellbeing particularly in the workplace as she strongly believes, people are any businesses best asset and they can ensure the success of a company if they are well.

Towergate Health & Protection is a trading name of Health and Protection Solutions Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Registered in England and Wales number 4907859. Registered office: West Park House, 23 Cumberland Place, Southampton, SO15 2BB

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