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News / May 29, 2023

Study highlights post-pandemic impact on Irish workplaces

by Rowan Thomas

a survey on mental health has been published following the pandemic

A study of mental health and wellbeing promotion in Irish workplaces has been published, revealing the changing picture of mental health following the pandemic.

The study surveyed more than 1,500 businesses across Ireland. It has revealed the first national mental health picture of the impact of the pandemic across Irish workplaces.

Conducted by University College Cork (UCC), the study found that one in five Irish firms have experienced mental health related issues in the past year. Mental health-related absenteeism is also on the rise. The majority of employers in Ireland are not investing in workplace mental health and wellbeing supports.

The study highlights the challenges Irish employers face in relation to employee mental health post-pandemic, explores workplace mental health and wellbeing promotion in Ireland, and investigates significant changes which have occurred since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mental health issues are estimated to cost the Irish economy approximately €11 billion each year.

Key findings

Key findings in the report – Healthy Workplace Ireland: A Survey of Mental Health and Well-being Promotion in Irish Firms – include:

  • 80% of employers in Ireland are not investing in workplace mental health
  • 76% of employers see employee mental health and wellbeing as their responsibility
  • 32% of employers have an organisational response to mental health and wellbeing
  • 20% of employers have a dedicated budget for mental health and wellbeing
  • Mental health-related sickness absence has increased post-pandemic. 64% of employers stating that absenteeism – physical and mental health related – adversely impacts business performance
  • Mental health-related sickness absence is presently a growing challenge for Irish employers. More than half of employers report that the proportion of absenteeism due to mental ill-health has increased in the last 12 months
  • Workplaces are changing as more employers allow staff to work from home (WFH). Accordingly, most employers view remote/hybrid working positively
  • Prior to the pandemic, 7% of firms in Ireland had employees who worked from home. Now, 32% of firms have employees that work from home
  • Employers in Ireland are less likely to support workplace health promotion than in England. 23% of Irish companies have a plan to support employee mental health in comparison to 31% of companies in England
  • Presenteeism – working when ill – is higher in Irish businesses (27%) compared to businesses in England (21%), a pattern that is consistent across sectors and firm size bands. The most commonly cited reasons for presenteeism by Irish employers are the need to meet deadlines and client demand
  • Smaller firms are much less likely to be providing support for employee mental health and wellbeing. This could be due to resource constraints, more informal practices within smaller businesses and perhaps the lack of a distinct HR function.

Understanding workplace mental health

‘The report is a first step to understanding workplace mental health and wellness promotion by Irish employers. Why are Irish employers, the majority of whom acknowledge their responsibilities, not investing in workplace mental health and wellbeing to a greater extent?

‘It may be that the business case for investing in mental health and wellbeing is unclear to Irish businesses,’ stated Niamh Lenihan, Munster Technological University.

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