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Fitness employers 'need to take action' to improve workplace mental health

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Employers within the fitness and physical activity sector could do more when it comes to ensuring their workforces have the support they need to deal with mental health issues.

The results of The 2023 Workforce State of Mind Survey, published today (17 March), shows that there is a widening gap between the needs of the workforce and the protection and support provided by employers.

Now in its third year, the survey is based on responses from 918 individuals – self-employed and employed – working within fitness and active leisure across the UK, as well as 68 employers.

More than half the survey's respondents said they had experienced a mental health issue in the past 12 months, while nearly three-quarters say they've experienced a mental health issue 'at some point'.

When it comes to supporting these individuals, it seems the awareness of mental health issues that emerged at the height of the pandemic crisis is now abating, with less attention being paid.

Just 8 per cent of employee respondents said somebody regularly checks on their mental health at work – down from 11 per cent in 2022 and 19 per cent in 2021.

The latter could explain why 46 per cent of respondents would not be honest with their employer if they needed to take time off due to a mental health issue – suggesting that stigma around mental health is still preventing open and honest conversations.

On the positive side, 72 per cent of respondents with line manager felt this manager cared about their mental wellbeing, with this number around this level for three years now (75 per cent in 2022 and 78 per cent in 2021).

In addition, around half of employer respondents (49 per cent) say they have a wellbeing strategy they communicate with the workforce, with this number up from 42 per cent in 2022 and 40 per cent in 2021 – nearly a 10 per cent increase in three years, however, employee awareness of these strategies needs attention, as only 41 per cent of employees say they see it.

Employers said they'd welcome support in making improvements, with 71 per cent of organisations saying they'd value advice from an industry body to help shape their approach to employee mental wellbeing.

The survey was conducted by Workplace Mental Wealth, with the support of Active IQ, Alliance Leisure, Les Mills and Myzone – with the CIMSPA acting as its official partner.

Lindsey Simpson, co founder Workplace Mental Wealth, said: “Most employers need to step up their approach.

"While the survey suggests pockets of good work in this area, the overriding impression is that many employers are still falling short with many not meeting legally required standards in employee safety.

"This is at odds with what is increasingly being expected of employers nationally and globally.

"The emphasis on understanding and managing workplace mental health and safety is growing, so there is a need for the sector to start taking systemic steps to improve.

“What’s required is a sector-wide commitment to raising the standard of workforce mental health driven by employers and supported by sector bodies.

"This needs to include education to empower employers to develop a culture built on prevention, protection and support, essentially ‘good work’ practices, that fulfil legal requirements and boost commercial growth.

"One size does not fit all. Employers need to work with their teams to design and implement a strategic approach, it’s the key to meaningful progress."

Deloitte estimates poor mental health at work costs private leisure employers £702 - £769 per employee per year.

For a workforce of 30, that's at least £21,060 a year, for a workforce of 100 that's at least £70,200 a year and for a workforce of 1,500 that's at least £1,053,000 a year

The report will be available to download from Monday 10th March from the following link:

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Employers within the fitness and physical activity sector could do more when it comes to ensuring their workforces have the support they need to deal with mental health issues.

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