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Top drivers of poor mental health in the workplace

The impact of the COVID-19 has meant a vast majority of the workforce has, to some extent, had to adapt to working from home to maintain social distancing - leaving us all more vulnerable to the mental impact of remote working and self-isolation.

Added to this are the general health concerns around the virus and the impact of loneliness. Being proactive to protect your workforce requires an employer to understand the red flags and workplace triggers that can cause deteriorating mental health.


We know that there is a significant association between social isolation, loneliness, and poor mental health. When employees fail to successfully communicate at work, they may feel isolated or left out. Home workers are more likely to suffer, due to the lack of human connection and the solitude of working remotely.

According to a recent study conducted by the Black Dog Institute, over 50% of people reported feeling lonely during the pandemic.

Lack of support

More junior employees or new hires may experience stress and pressure differently than more seasoned employees. Working remotely creates another obstacle to accessing support, especially when points of contact or mentors have not been formalised. Having a mentor that has “been there, done that” is a great way to reduce the tension felt by more vulnerable personality types.

Burnout and mounting workloads

In a 2020 Robert Walters survey, 43% of respondents said working longer hours as a result of the pandemic was negatively impacting their mental health.

For those suffering from a long-term mental health condition, chronic untreated stress is a huge contributing factor to workplace burnout and illness. A poor work-life balance, mounting workloads, and job pressure are all contributing workplace factors to burnout, leaving remote workers far more susceptible to its effects during these unprecedented times.

Employees are also more likely to feel burdened with a growing workload, especially without the ability to communicate ongoing projects and the support of face-to-face management to help prioritise tasks. Choosing to work mentally demanding hours without any structure in place will undoubtedly result in an adverse impact on performance and motivation.

Poor work-life balance

Long working hours may affect an employee’s ability to spend time with their families, practice self-care, and sleep. Remote workers may find work-life balance particularly challenging with no physical separation between work and home-life, especially those with school aged children. Additionally, remote workers may find themselves working more hours than usual to prove to their managers that they are reliable.


Employees may feel empowered to take time off or reduce their workload when experiencing a physical health problem, but many employees with mental health disorders may suffer in silence for fear of retaliation. 33% of people with mental health conditions believe that admitting to these in the workplace would damage their career.

Poor professional self-esteem

Employees lacking confidence at work are prone to impostor syndrome - the overwhelming feeling that you don’t deserve your success or don’t believe you should ask for more. This anxiety can become more acute in uncertain and professionally demanding situations where employees need to assert responsibility and make critical business decisions, spiking our stress levels.

Interestingly, poor self-esteem is more common among female professionals, and does not discriminate in terms of seniority. According to research conducted in the UK by Robert Walters, nearly double the proportion of women than men (22% v 13%) claim that a lack of self-esteem is one of the main barriers to progress at work, with this issue persisting up to board level.

Lack of value

Employees that feel undervalued in the workplace are more likely to be disengaged and demotivated. This can stem from having a lack of voice or influence within their team, little control or say over decisions that directly impact on their role, or a belief that their renumeration or reward is not an accurate reflection of the work they do.

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