According to research from laya healthcare’s Brave New Era series - one of Ireland’s largest studies among Irish employees and employers in the workplace - employers urgently need to address the mental health issues and concerns of employees.

HR leaders have reported that while productivity has increased by 28% during 2021, this could be at the cost of employees' mental health, morale and motivation.

Since the first wave of Brave New Era research in September 2020, overall mental wellbeing has decreased among those surveyed by 19%, morale at work has declined by 23% and motivation has reduced by 17%.

Not only that but 48% of employees surveyed have reportedly felt lonely and isolated, while 46% have struggled to get a good night's sleep and 24% have experienced sustained levels of anxiety.

Overall, it seems that over half of employees’ mental health has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This has led to 45% of those surveyed, between 18-34 year old, planning to change jobs in the coming year, with one third actively looking for an employer who prioritises mental health support in the workplace.

These findings come as companies start to invest in the future and grow their workforces, with 59% of employers planning to increase the number of new hires in the coming months compared to just 29% in January 2021.

Commenting on research findings, Sinéad Proos, Head of Health & Wellbeing at laya healthcare said, "Supporting the mental wellbeing of employees can no longer be a 'nice to do’; it is essential to building a healthy and sustainable workforce that is able to support businesses growth ambitions."

The research also showed that the stigma about mental health has not yet been broken, with 59% of employers and HR leaders stating that there is still a stigma about mental health in the workplace.

Although 41% of employees share this view, this is more prevalent in manufacturing industries (59%), with three in five employees admitting they haven’t sought help for anxiety or mental health issues.

Speaking in relation to this finding, Dr. Sarah O’Neill, chartered psychologist and Chief Clinical Officer at Spectrum Life and clinical lead for laya healthcare’s 24/7 Mental Wellbeing Support Programme said:

"The perceived stigma attached to mental health issues is by far one of the biggest hurdles to be overcome in organisations, which is a barrier for many in seeking help. In addition to providing mental wellbeing support services, the existence of the benefits provided needs to be communicated to employees. Employees need and expect mentally healthy workplaces."

Research involved 1,004 online interviews amongst employees and 188 online interviews with employers, and six one-hour, digital, in-depth interviews with HR leaders/ business owners. You can find the full report here.