The mental health of Britain's workforce is suffering as a direct result of them feeling 'too guility' to phone in sick, according to new research from CV Library.

While today might be ‘National Sickie Day’, the study found that the majority of Brits (74%) actually only take one or two sick days a year. What’s more, less than one in five (17.5%) said they have ‘pulled a sickie’ in the last 12 months.

The study sought to uncover just how many sick days the average Brit takes each year, and the affect this has on their physical and mental health. Worryingly, over half (52.5%) of professionals said they feel too guilty to take time off when they’re genuinely ill.

When asked why they feel too guilty to call in sick, the main reason was that they didn’t want to leave their team in the lurch (50.6%). Other key findings include:

  • One in five (24.1%) don’t like taking sick days as they believe it reflects badly on them
  • A further 13.9% say their boss is not very understanding if they are ill
  • And over one in 10 (13.2%) say calling in sick is frowned upon in their workplace
Additional research from CV-Library explored the impact that working overtime can have on people’s physical and mental health. According to the study, two-thirds of Brits (64%) confess to working more than their contracted hours, with 11.3% working an extra 15 hours each week.

It’s therefore not surprising to learn that 67.7% say their job makes them feel stressed and a further 42.9% say it causes them to feel anxious or depressed.

Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library, said: There seems to be a stigma around taking sick days, with many fearing that their manager won’t believe them or they’ll get too behind on their workload. Another problem that often arises is sick pay, with those who go unpaid being even less likely to take the day off, despite being unwell.

“As an employer, it’s important to make sure you have a policy in place that encourages staff to take time off when they’re ill, whether this is a physical or mental ailment. When employees come into work feeling sick, they’re less productive and more likely to pass on their illness to other members of the team. As such, it’s better for both parties that they take the time out to recover.”

CV-Library offers its advice on the steps businesses should take in order to support their staff and reduce the stigma around taking sick days:

  • Offer mental health days: An emerging new trend, 83.6% of Brits believe this would be beneficial, giving them time to look after their mental wellbeing, without feeling guilty that there’s nothing ‘physically’ wrong.
  • Allow staff to work from home: By giving staff the opportunity to work from home when they’re not feeling great, you eliminate the need for them to call in sick. They can continue to work, but comfortably from their own home.
  • Keep the lines of communication open: Almost two-thirds (60.8%) of professionals feel they can’t talk to their boss about mental health. As such, you need to create a trustworthy environment where staff feel safe discussing these important issues.
  • Promote work-life balance: One of the best ways to reduce stress and poor mental health is by encouraging your staff to have a strong work-life balance. This means not taking work calls or replying to emails out of hours and not putting in too much overtime!