2021 has been an overwhelming year for workers, with the coronavirus pandemic putting a huge strain on both physical and mental wellbeing.
However, whilst multiple waves of the virus have garnered staggering highs in infection rates, the number one cause of illness-related work leave this year was mental health.
This is according to the latest research compiled by GoodShape, which found that in 2021, poor mental health accounted for 19% of all lost working time across the country, more so than absences caused by confirmed cases of Covid-19, which represented a still startling 16% overall.
This means that, over the course of the last 12 months, absences averaged at least three times longer for mental health-related concerns, than for Covid-related reasons. Alarmingly, 54% of workers who take two or more mental health-related absences will go on to leave their jobs.
The research also found that the length of time taken off for each mental health-related absence differs significantly per sector, with employees in Government, construction & real estate, and transport & logistics taking the longest time off for each instance.
Those in the consumer and retail space were least likely to take time off due to poor mental health, at 12.3 days average compared to 23.4 days for Government workers or 21.5 days for construction & real estate, however, this may be due to perceived fragility in the sector, rather than mental health trends.
The true cost of mental and physical health
In total, UK workers took over 319million days off work for illness or injury in 2021. This accounted for an estimated cost to employers of over £43billion.
Shockingly, this is a huge increase on 2019, when the direct cost of worker absences on UK businesses was estimated to be at £33billion. This is an increase of 31% in just two years.
This reflects the increase in time taken off by employees for illness, increasing from approximately 250million days in 2019 to over 319million lost working days in 2021.
The cost of these lost working days does not cover additional indirect costs such as hiring replacement staff, loss of business continuity, training and providing support to other staff, so the true cost is likely far higher.