Young depressed woman talking to lady psychologist during session, mental health

Written by: Claire Lock, VP of HR for EMEA at UKG

World Mental Health Day (October 10th) is the ideal opportunity for workers to reflect on how their working arrangements impact their mental wellbeing – be that positively or negatively.

The relationships we form with colleagues – and in particular, managers – impact the decisions we make throughout our careers. Having a good manager could be the difference between remaining loyal at an organisation or becoming a job hopper.  

As we get into the day-to-day duties of our jobs, it can be easy to ignore the impact our managers can have on us in the long run – and not only on our career paths and professional lives, but on our mental health too. Earlier in 2023, The Workforce Institute at UKG surveyed 3,400 people across 10 countries to spotlight the critical role our jobs, leadership, and, most of all, our managers play in supporting mental health in and outside of work.


Mind over money 

According to the findings, more than 80% of employees would prioritise positive mental health over a higher paid job. This overwhelming response indicates a clear shift in mindset that employees of the past may have had. Most people no longer want to commit to long hours in the hope of a pay rise or bonus if they can help it. They would much rather commit to their contracted working hours so that they have more time to spend time with their loved ones, cultivate hobbies or make the dinner reservations they had planned with friends instead of working until all hours. Clearly, employee wellbeing has taken the front seat.

While we might assume that people fresh into the workforce are spearheading this workplace revolution, it’s not just junior-level members of staff prioritising their mental health – 70% of managers would take a pay cut in return for a role which encourages better mental wellbeing. Seeing a large proportion of managers also prioritising mental health spells good news for the rest of the workforce, as there is likely to be a trickle-down effect.

While many workplaces implement policies to reduce overworking, often it can be managers that have the most impact on a person’s working day. However, if more and more managers are acknowledging the importance of work/life balance, they are more likely to encourage other employees to step away from their work at 5pm and switch off over weekends and holidays.


Still progress to be made

Despite these findings, many workers continue to experience burnout and stress from their roles. Just under half (43%) of respondents ‘often’ or ‘always’ feel tired by the time the workday has finished.

Having such a high response rate to what can be described as burnout is a concerning trend for managers. Either their employees do not feel comfortable enough talking to management about this issue or managers are not listening to the concerns voiced by their workers.

So, leaders need to do more when it comes to workplace stress to reduce the chances of their people burning out. Simply talking about mental health at work and having a dedicated page on the website is not enough action. Installing support parameters to assist employee wellbeing is crucial to the employee experience. Ensuring competitive pay, anonymous feedback forms, necessary training and avoid overloading workloads are all important steps to upholding employee wellbeing and can help reduce exhaustion that many workers are feeling.


Managers are also feeling the pressure

Interestingly, managers are more often stressed out than their team members and senior leadership (42% vs 40% and 35%, respectively), and 25% say they are “often” or “always” feeling burned out. 

Often when businesses discuss mental health, employees in more senior, higher paid positions are often left out of the discussion. When operating as a team, everyone should have their voice heard and not be left behind when it comes to mental wellbeing.

Leadership teams and the C-suite often have the responsibility of overseeing the wellbeing and functionality of dozens, sometimes hundreds of workers – which can become an overwhelming responsibility for many leaders. In order to lead well, organisations cannot leave their leadership teams out of mental wellbeing conversations. Ensuring they have access to the necessary wellbeing support tools is a crucial for when it comes to properly supporting management teams.


Upholding wellbeing for the future 

For employers on World Mental Health Day, it is important to remember that offering employees a competitive salary doesn’t necessarily mean that an their wellbeing is guaranteed to be in a good place. From the research, it is clear to see that more needs to be done to promote the conversation around mental health and how organisations can effectively drive change.

It’s important to ensure that mental wellness isn’t a taboo topic, while supporting those conversations with real action through the right HR channels. This will create the foundation for a healthy working environment between managers and their teams. As we can see, there is still work to be done when it comes to improving employee wellbeing for everyone in the workplace. But, the organisations that identify this issue and take the necessary action to enforce change will quickly see improvement in employee relations, productivity and overall workplace satisfaction.