Mental Health and Work Productivity

‘Nearly 3 in every 10 employees will have a mental health problem in any one year’ – the bulk of this being anxiety and depression. Sometimes psychological symptoms can be so distressing that a person cannot face them.


A report was published from the chief medical officer for England in 2014 stating that mental health is having an increasing impact on employees in the UK with absenteeism as a result of “Stress, depression and anxiety” in the UK risen by 24 per cent from 2009 to 2013, while “serious mental illness” increased absent days by about 50%. When psychological symptoms becomes overwhelming, some people may interpret the symptoms as physical illnesses. The physical illness is not fake; the psychological and the physical were never separate entities as they are both aspects of the same system. This experience is known as somatisation.

Somatisation is a defence mechanism where the unconscious may re-channel repressed emotions or internal conflict into physical symptoms as a form of symbolic communication. Psychotherapy works by working through this discomfort and provide tools and techniques to manage and work through the pain.

‘Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey found that 73 per cent of employees surveyed have at least one form of work-related stress; 41 per cent have two or more; 20 per cent have three or more.’


However, it is not just absent days that affect productivity but the individual not being present because they are in some form of psychological distress, anxiety, depression, substance addiction or other forms of dependency or mental health concerns.

60-70% of people with common mental disorders are in work’ and ‘Only 4 in 10 employees disclosing to their employer feelings or symptoms of stress or mental health difficulties -over 50% seek help outside of work.’ Both the employers and employees benefit from having them in the workplace which is why it is also important to ensure they are getting the necessary help they need. Mental health, if left untreated can cause more complications such as causing physical health to decline, lack of sleep, lack of focus, drug and alcohol dependence and reduced job satisfaction.

Chronic pain and psychosomatic pain can also lead to reduced productivity at work. The mind is highly attuned to noticing pain; pain is atypically a healthy response to a situation, as it usually prevents an individual from causing any more injury to itself.  Our bodies contain massive networks of nerve receptors that transmit messages up the spine to the brain. Once these signals reach the brain, the brain figures out what area of the body is hurt, how badly it is hurt and what you should do to alleviate or minimize the pain.

Sometimes the brain continues to send signals of pain despite the triggers being resolved or no triggers being present. In addition, occasionally, these messages get crossed and you may experience pain in a different area to where the nerve signals from. This is known as ‘referred pain’. Crossed signals can also lead you to experience pain where there is none. The fact that the subconscious mind can produce pain ‘out of nothing’ can lead some to think that therefore this experience of pain may be psychological rather than physical. However this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. The main contributing psychological factors for psychosomatic pain are: anxiety, bipolar, depression, obsessive-compulsive behaviour and panic attacks.

Psychotherapy can be effective at only providing not only an increased quality and experience of life but increased will and motivation to be at work. Decreased number of sick days and mental health days, improvement in time management and efficiency as well as overall sense of self-worth, confidence and team work.

James Waldron



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