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Report reveals half of employees feel psychologically unsafe in the workplace

Today sees the start of Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19 May), which aims to drive conversations around mental health to create lasting change, City & Guilds Group is calling on employers and managers to take the lead when it comes to mental wellbeing in the workplace.

With people spending on average one third of their adult lives at work – and mental health related sickness absence reportedly costing UK businesses £8.4 billion a year – City & Guilds Group says employers have a responsibility to promote and foster psychological wellbeing at work. 

Recent research conducted by City & Guilds Group into the role of psychological safety in the workplace found that just over half (52 per cent) of employees in global organisations have encountered workplace bullying and felt psychologically unsafe at work, primarily caused by workers feeling overwhelmed or inadequate (25 per cent), arguments in the workplace (25 per cent) and leaders not prioritising psychological safety (15 per cent).

The Leading in a Digital Age report, published by The City & Guilds Group earlier this year, highlighted a worrying discrepancy in how senior management and employees view psychological safety in the workplace. The report revealed that despite 94 per cent of respondents saying that they consider psychological safety to be important, just 10 per cent of businesses are seen to treat it as a priority. With one in five businesses admitting to having no measures in place to support psychological safety and would only take action once an issue arises, the research suggests businesses are taking the “wait and see” approach to employee mental health.

The study also found that social media and other digital channels have created more avenues for workers to feel anxious or stressed in the workplace and are almost impossible to monitor, leading to 63 per cent of business leaders saying it’s more difficult to manage the psychological safety of employees due to social media.

Nicky Pattimore, Group Director Employee Experience at City & Guilds Group, commented: “This Mental Health Awareness Week we need to shine a light on the importance of psychological safety in the workplace. Good mental health at work and good management go hand in hand; the more leaders prioritise psychological safety, the more likely they are to realise the benefits of an engaged, trusting workforce.

Our research highlights a disconnect in psychological safety. Although the importance of psychological wellbeing in workplaces is recognised, there is a lack of clarity around who is responsible for ensuring it – resulting in inaction. In order to build a safe psychological environment for their employees, leaders must define who in their business is accountable for handling risks or issues. And with much workplace interaction happening digitally, the issue becomes more complex to monitor. Digital advancements in the workplace are only going to evolve, and rather than feeling overwhelmed by the challenges they present, leaders should seize the opportunity to develop tactics for managing employee wellbeing in a way that is fit for the future.”

Leading in a Digital Age, published in January 2019, surveyed 1,000 workers in global organisations – 500 of whom had key management responsibilities.

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