Wellbeing in the City: what’s working and what’s not?

Wellbeing in the City: what’s working and what’s not?

Following our annual City-wide research, Cityworks Consultant Kathryn Ryan, looks at the wellbeing findings in more detail.

Employee wellbeing is high on the agenda for City employers and a drive to focus on transparency, particularly around mental health is changing the way many employers support their employees.  Our 2018 Cityparents survey results echo this; we have seen a slight improvement overall in how respondents rate their physical and mental wellbeing with a recognition that employers are taking valuable steps to support this.  However, mental ill health continues to be prevalent amongst City professionals and there is a strong reluctance to disclose this in the workplace for fear of stigma and negative career impact:

‘There is a lot of encouragement to be open about mental health issues, but I can't help feeling reluctant to share in case of negative consequences in how people perceive me’.

Physical wellbeing is continuing to improve

‘The juggling act is a daily struggle’

66% of our respondents rated their physical health and wellbeing as excellent or good, an increase from 60% in 2017.  Despite this, many respondents commented that it’s difficult to find ‘time for me time’, ‘there’s no time for exercise’ and ‘sleep deprivation’ is an issue.  Only 5% of respondents rated their physical health as poor so even though many City professionals may not feel they spend enough time focusing on their physical wellbeing, overall this does not seem to have a detrimental effect for many.

Mental wellbeing is still lagging behind

‘Feeling overwhelmed with work and home pressures’

City professionals continue to rate their mental wellbeing less positively than their physical wellbeing.  58% of respondents rated their mental wellbeing as excellent or good, a slight increase from our 2017 figures (55%).  However, 42% rated it as fair or poor, compared to 34% for physical wellbeing.  Stress and juggling home and work pressures feature highly in the commentary around this as well as an acceptance that City careers can be high-stress professions.

Mental ill health continues to be prevalent

‘Everyone is stressed and anxious’

58% of respondents report having experienced mental ill health either currently or in the past, and stress, anxiety and depression continue to be the most common forms of mental ill health experienced by our respondents.  Stress and burnout feature more frequently for male respondents whilst anxiety and depression are cited more frequently by female respondents (fig 1 below)

Fig 1. What form does/did your mental ill health take?

Are people more comfortable in disclosing mental ill health issues to their employer?

Despite a drive from employers to encourage disclosure, we are still seeing many employees choosing not to talk about their mental ill-health issues.  64% of our 2018 survey respondents said they did not disclose their mental ill health to others at work, down very slightly from 66% in 2017.  Whilst some respondents feel that they ‘just want to keep it private’, many others comment that they ‘are afraid to show weakness for fear of judgement’.  Others mention ‘there is a perception that it’s not really mental ill health’ or describe it as a ‘personality flaw’, demonstrating that there is still more employers can be doing to increase awareness of mental health and drive understanding amongst managers and employees.

So, what have employers done that has made a difference?

In this year’s survey, we asked participants to share their views on what their employers have done that has been most valuable in supporting their physical and mental wellbeing at work.  69% of respondents felt that allowing more flexible working has supported their health and wellbeing and this echoes trends we see in flexible working in other areas of our survey.   49% of respondents noted the importance of employers providing practical support including training on topics such as managing stress and resilience, wellbeing activities and memberships and childcare provisions.  And 43% of respondents said that better access to information and advice had led to them feeling more supported. 

Fig 2. What has your employer done that you have found most valuable in supporting your mental and physical health and wellbeing at work?

Our summary and recommendations

City employers have increased their focus on employee wellbeing and have put in place initiatives that employees genuinely value.  However, disclosure around mental health continues to be an issue for many employees and City firms should focus on challenging the stigma around this to ensure employees feel able to ask for the support they need.

We encourage employers to:

  1. Establish a wellbeing strategy that commits to a plan for improving the physical and mental wellbeing of its employees
  2. Collect, analyse and monitor data on employee wellbeing to understand the true impact in the organisation
  3. Continue to build awareness of mental health e.g. with training sessions, poster campaigns, by marking Mental Health Awareness Week and supporting the Green Ribbon campaign to help employees understand mental health, feel comfortable disclosing issues and know how to ask for help
  4. Provide training for employees on how to manage stress and increase resilience
  5. Provide opportunities for employees to work more flexibly to help them get a balance between work and home life that works for them

Category: Cityworks News

Released On 2nd Jul 2018

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