Social illness

Impact of the workplace on employee mental health

New research shows that our workplaces have a significant impact on employees mental health and wellbeing. You can read the full report here.

MQ Mental Health Research has joined forces with Peopleful and the WorkWell Research Centre at North West University to conduct a cross-industry study of workplace dynamics across the UK and Ireland. The aim is to develop a framework that will help leaders to build more mentally healthy workplaces that deliver better outcomes for their people that – in turn – boosts their organisations’ performance.

The value of the study is underlined by MQ CEO Lea Milligan’s observation that “nurturing mentally resilient workplaces is not just a moral imperative, but an economic necessity”, and represents the first step in building an evidence-based roadmap for this journey.

The first wave of the study commenced in 2022 and has captured responses from 5,445 employees at 15 organisations, across a range of industry sectors.


Headline findings:

  • 1 in 4 employees is at high risk of burnout, with a further 22% showing signs of stress-related ill health.
  • The main driver of Burnout and Stress-related Ill-health is Workload, which – in turn – is driven by frustration with Equipment and Physical Resources (e.g. computer systems in professional settings, and kitchen equipment in the hospitality industry).
  • Other significant drivers of Burnout and Stress-related Ill-health include poor perceptions of Person-Job Fit among employees and elevated Emotional Load (i.e. situations at work that affect employees personally).
  • The bottom-line impact of poor mental health and wellbeing in the workplace is substantial, with those at high risk of burnout costing nearly 11 times more (in terms of attrition, lost productivity and absenteeism) than those with manageable stress levels.
  • Approximately a third of employees in the sample were giving serious thought to leaving their organisations, with a quarter showing psychological detachment from their organisation.
  • Younger employees were at significantly higher risk of Stress-related Ill-health than older employees, whereas High Burnout Risk was experienced at a relatively consistent rate, but was considerably lower among those aged over 60.


The study is continuing, with the second assessment currently underway, and future waves planned, allowing for longitudinal research to be undertaken to explain these patterns over time.

For further information on the report, or enquiries about how to participate in future waves of the study, please contact [email protected].


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