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Research shows increase in mental health sick days following COVID-19 lockdown

New research from NTT DATA UK, a world leader in consulting and IT services, has found that subsequent COVID-19 lockdowns, and increased anxiety around working in times of COVID, have resulted in a long-term increase of 5% in the proportion of fit notes issued for mental health reasons.

A fit note is an official document written by doctors to provide a medical opinion on a person’s fitness to work and is usually required when an employee is on sick leave for more than seven days.

The proportion of diagnosed fit notes issued for mental health reasons had already been gradually increasing over time from 29% in December 2014 to 34% in December 2019. However, from the beginning of the first COVID-19 lockdown, which lasted from 23rd March to 4th July, mental health-related time off has jumped by 5%.

As the government again issues work from home advice, these statistics show that employers must support their staff emotionally.

Vicki Chauhan, Head of Public Sector at NTT DATA UK, said: “Employee wellbeing has always been of crucial importance in the workplace. This research shows that it’s now more important than ever to put our mental health first as employees are pulled from to pillar to post when it comes to working from home advice.

“At NTT DATA, we provide our staff with support from trained mental health first aiders, share useful content on mental health management, and have mental wellbeing ‘champions’ embedded within our teams. To promote wellbeing and self-care, we encourage regular breaks during the day and also offer free virtual yoga and meditation sessions. Most importantly, we urge our employees to reach out if they are struggling.

“Employers must remain conscious of the mental health challenges facing their staff and ensure they continue to provide the support necessary to protect their employee’s wellbeing.”