Poor mental health costs U.K. employers up to £45 billion each year, and has been increasing since 2016 every year. Young people working in retail are the biggest group of employees who suffer the most mental health problems. Research has shown that mental illness can result in high rates of presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover while mentally healthy employees can boost productivity. Research by Deloitte found that for every £1 of investment in employee mental health, the return is £5 as sickness, absences and other consequences decrease. In this blog you will read a summary of the study Warwick Enactus conducted for Mindsum, that provided an insight into this issue. By doing a deep dive into the different mental healthcare initiatives of several retail companies, they found that more investment needs to be made in this along with better prevention of mental illness.
Young retail employees are seen to suffer from a range of mental health issues however, there have been three that stand out the most due to pandemic related stressors or long-lasting issues as a result of working within this sector. There are 8.2 million cases of Generalised Anxiety Disorder within the UK while in 2021, 88% of retail employees reported feeling anxiety, worry and fear, making it the most prevalent mental health issue of this sector. Depression is the second most common mental health issue and is especially increasing during the past couple of years, as there is increased fear of losing a job since it occurs more often nowadays. Another reason why depression is prevalent in the retail sector is due to the loneliness experienced by the staff when doing various tasks that have no human contact. The final most prevalent mental health problem found was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This was seen to be experienced because of the COVID-19 pandemic along with high cases of sexual harassment cases observed in the retail industry.
The poor mental wellbeing of the retail industry has resulted in a number of consequences. It has accounted for one fifth of lost working time and 54% of absence cases are due to poor mental health. Staff turnover along with employee satisfaction are all aspects that are a direct result of poor mental health. Retail companies all over the U.K. have attempted to combat the rise of poor mental wellbeing in the sector through different initiatives. The most common initiatives in the retail sector among brands like M&S, Tesco and John Lewis Partnerships are mental wellbeing programmes that offer counselling to all employees, online learning platforms aimed to assist employees’ knowledge and understanding of mental health and offering education and guidance on mental health.
This research has shown that although different incentives have started to assist employees with their mental wellbeing, there is a lack of support for prevention of mental illness. For example, a simple change in creating a sense of belonging and a healthy company culture can be useful because it can reduce stigma around mental health and increase employees seeking help. Reducing financial insecurity is an incentive that can greatly reduce mental illness as there have been multiple studies that point to financial insecurity having detrimental effects on young employees in the retail sector.
The most common mental health challenges among young adults in the retail sector are Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Mental illness accounts for absenteeism, high staff turnover and employee satisfaction. UK retail companies have started many different incentives that aim to support and help the employees however they do not prevent mental illness from occurring. This deep dive into the mental wellbeing of young employees in retail by Warwick Enactus and Mindsum, has shown that while there is some support, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Better initiatives are needed to target prevention and to reduce cases of mental illness within the UK retail sector.