Britain’s insurance brokers are reeling under a tidal wave of mental health issues after the stresses of the COVID pandemic.
Research published ahead of World Mental Health Day by Ecclesiastical Insurance found the number of brokers suffering a mental health issue linked to work is at its highest level since the industry survey launched three years ago.
In 2020 over half (57%) of brokers had experienced a mental health issue in the previous 12 months but the figure leapt to over two-thirds of all brokers (68%). Stress (61%), anxiety (41%) and feeling overwhelmed (36%) are the leading mental health issues, with one in seven brokers (14%) also suffering from depression.
Stress is at record levels. The Wellbeing Survey tracked stress levels by asking brokers to rate their stress from 1-10. In the past 12 months, the average rating has risen from 5.27 to 5.42, the highest since the survey began.
Average stress levels were higher at national broker firms, while the survey also showed a correlation between stress and age with 18-35 year olds reporting lower stress levels than brokers aged 46 to 55. One of the starkest findings is that female brokers are more stressed than their male counterparts, with an average score of 6.33.
Adrian Saunders, Commercial Director at Ecclesiastical, said: “This is the third annual Broker Wellbeing Survey and our research has found that brokers are under pressure more than ever. Heavy workloads and increasing demands from customers, along with the lingering impacts of the pandemic, are contributing to record stress and anxiety levels. Worryingly brokers feel less able to report their concerns to their employers, with just two in five feeling comfortable talking to their manager, and this is something that firms need to address promptly.
“More positively awareness of mental health is improving and firms are introducing a range of wellbeing initiatives.”
The report found heavy workloads (78%), customer demands (49%) dealing with regulation (45%), and pressure to hit targets (41%) were the biggest contributors to stress.
Nearly a third of brokers (29%) also cited concerns about COVID as a major source of stress for them. The survey found most brokers (56%) are now mainly working in the office, with one in five (21%) working flexibly between home and the office and 23% mainly working from home.
Brokers said they are taking less time off with just 4% of brokers who had experienced mental health issues taking time off work to manage their issues in the past 12 months.
However, in a worrying trend less than half of brokers (44%) feel able to report their mental health issues. This figure has declined steeply from 74% in 2019 and 56% last year.
While 77% of brokers say their organisation is supportive of people with mental health issues, only 43% feel comfortable talking to their manager, suggesting there are barriers at management level.
However, help is at hand with nearly three quarters of brokers having introduced wellbeing initiatives in the workplace to support their people. A third of brokers said the pandemic has improved their employer’s approach to wellbeing.
Flexible working was out as the most popular wellbeing initiative (45%). This was followed by confidential helplines (34%), counselling support (28%), mental health awareness training for staff (28%) and managers (25%) and mindfulness techniques (20%). One in ten broker firms has introduced yoga to support colleagues with mental health.