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National Stress Awareness Day: Poor mental health caused by stress at work has a big impact on productivity, says CIPD

Productivity across UK business has been 'significantly undermined' by mental health issues arising from stress in the workplace, according to the CIPD.

The CIPD research, launched to coincide with National Stress Awareness Day today, found although 56% of employees report poor mental health, 98% of these continue to attend work regularly. And just over a third (37%) admit their employer supports staff with mental health problems well.

Nearly four out of five employees (78%) with poor mental health find it difficult to concentrate at work as a result of their illness and 57% say they take longer to do work.

Exactly half of respondents say they put off challenging tasks as a result of going in to work with poor mental health, almost half (46%) report they are less patient with customers and clients and that affects customer service while 41% think poor mental health interferes with their ability to make decisions and 36% believe they are more likely to get into conflict with colleagues

Ben Willmott, senior public policy adviser at the CIPD, said: "The starting point for addressing poor mental health at work is good people management by front-line managers and supervisors. Managers can be part of the problem or part of the solution. Managers that put excessive workloads on staff or have a bullying management style are likely to either create or exacerbate mental health problems at work. In contrast, managers who communicate well and consult, coach and develop their staff are more likely to support positive mental health and resilience in the people they manage.

"Managers are also the people in organisations that should spot the early warning signs, such as changes in performance or behaviour that might indicate someone is not coping at work. Managers can ensure that people with mental health difficulties are referred to occupational health where these services are available or advise them to see their GP if they have not already done so at an early stage before their problems escalate. In some cases, managers may even be able to help people cope with their problems through informal counselling.

"The Government also has role to play in ensuring that talking therapies, such as different forms of counselling, are available for people suffering from poor mental health at an early stage before their health deteriorates to the point they have to take long periods of time off work sick or fall out of employment altogether."

In all, 21% of respondents say their mental health is moderate, while 6% of respondents describe their mental health as poor or very poor, compared with 72% who say their mental health is good or very good. Younger workers report the highest levels of poor mental health with 12% of 18 to 24-year-olds describing their mental as poor or very poor.

Among people that describe their mental health as poor, 12% say this is the result of problems at work, 32% believe it is a result of problems outside work in their personal lives and 56% think it is a combination of the two.