In a survey of 1,000 office-based employees in the UK, the U.S., Singapore and the UAE, 35.8% admitted to lying about taking a sick day, with the most common reasons related to mental and emotional health, including ‘stress’ and ‘feeling down’. As the world’s attention turns to the mental health impact of Covid-19, these confessions raise questions around the stigma that remains in workplaces.
The data has been revealed in a recent report, Employee Perceptions of Mental and Physical Health in the Workplace, published by international health benefits provider, Aetna International. The report explores the views of employees in regards to taking sick days, discussing health issues at work and the impact a mental health diagnosis can play in reducing their experiences of stigma.
Regionally, employees in Singapore are the most honest when it comes to telling their employer about the reasons for taking a sick day. In fact:
Employees in the U.S. however, are the most likely to lie to their employer:
When analysing the diagnosis of mental health issues across all regions, employees in Singapore had the lowest mental health diagnosis at 6% while the global average is 24.2%. Adding to this:
These figures show that Singapore and the UAE have the highest number of employees with undiagnosed mental health issues, suggesting a taboo surrounding mental health diagnosis in these regions.
Even though Singapore had the most workers who claimed that they have no mental health issues, employees in Singapore are more likely to lie to their employer about taking a sick day due to mental health reasons than any other region. For example:
These figures could suggest that employees in Singapore are feeling stressed, overworked and overwhelmed, yet afraid to speak to their employer.
“As a third of employees feel the need to conceal mental illness, anxiety or stress-related reasons for taking a sick day, it’s clear that there is still a high degree of stigma around mental health in the workplace. While some of this will be cultural, there’s clearly more that needs to be done to help line managers and employees navigate mental health at work.
“Employers can take steps to improve openness and transparency on mental health issues in their workplace. They can better communicate their policies on mental and behavioural health as well as the legal framework. It is important for management to foster a safe environment for employees to share the nature of their personal illness with their line manager – be it mental or physical. In this day and age, it’s not acceptable for employees to fear workplace discrimination when they’re experiencing mental illness. Instead, employers can work towards creating a culture of support when it comes to employee health and well-being. It’s particularly important at the moment as people and organisations alike grapple with the ‘second curve’ of the COVID-19 pandemic in the form of emotional and psychological issues.”