Heavy workloads and dealing with regulation are flagged as two key causes of broker stress

More than 50% of brokers have experienced a mental health issue within the last 12 months, according to research by insurer Ecclesiastical.

Its latest Broker Wellbeing Survey, which polled 250 brokers, found that stress and anxiety is still a key concern for many brokers, with heavy workloads (76%), dealing with regulation (59%), customer demands (54%) and pressure to hit targets (47%) being the main contributors.

However, these figures are an improvement on last year’s survey results, said Ecclesiastical. The number of brokers that reported feeling stressed has decreased from 61% last year to 46% this year.

Meanwhile, brokers experiencing anxiety has fallen from 37% in 2019 to 32% in 2020.

The majority (91%) of brokers feel more confident spotting the signs of poor mental health, versus 88% last year, while a further 91% believe they have the right tools to deal with stress.

This aligns with an uptick in the number of brokers who think their organisation is committed to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health, as well as an increase in brokers who are comfortable talking to their manager and colleagues about their own mental health.

Long way to go

Ecclesiastical’s annual survey, now in its third year, asks brokers to rate awareness and understanding in the industry of mental health issues on a scale of one (low) to 10 (high).

Awareness of mental health issues generally rose from 5.7 to 5.81 between 2019 and 2020, while understanding of mental health issues also increased from 4.9 to 5.36.

One broker who participated in the research said: “There are certain brokers, my company included, who put a lot of resources into raising awareness of the issue and training staff.

“Yet there are other brokers where it’s looked upon as a weakness or that the person suffering is workshy.

“Overall, it’s getting better but there is still a long way to go before it is understood across the entire industry.”

The research further tracked the differences in attitude towards mental health from male and female respondents.

It found that women are more likely to admit they feel overwhelmed at times (36%) compared to men (22%), and women are also significantly more likely to report a mental health problem (72%) to their manager than men (47%).

Furthermore, female brokers are more likely to agree that attitudes towards mental health have improved in their organisation over the past 12 months.

Adrian Saunders, commercial director at Ecclesiastical Insurance, said: “I’m delighted that our latest research finds positive progress is being made in reducing the stigma of mental health among brokers.

“It’s encouraging to see that many firms are now taking this issue seriously and creating environments where people feel able to open up and discuss their issues.

“However, there is a still a way to go with many firms not prioritising mental wellbeing.”

Covid-19 impact

A separate survey of 200 brokers, conducted in September, explored how brokers are coping with the coronavirus lockdowns.

Although 63% believe there has been no change to staff wellbeing as a result of the pandemic lockdowns, a fifth said that lockdown has detrimentally affected employee wellbeing while 17% think the lockdowns have actually had a positive effect.

The main concerns surrounding lockdown, according to the research, is isolation (58%), the stress of managing work and home life (33%) and reduced social contact with colleagues (20%).

However, brokers have responded by introducing flexible working hours (60%), increasing the frequency of team meetings (32%) and hosting virtual social events (27%).

The research also found that more than a quarter of brokers have introduced dedicated mental health support for colleagues, while a fifth have provided resources for parents and carers.

Saunders added: “Our broker roundtables found that broker firms have responded well to the Covid-19 crisis, offering extra support and help for colleagues. This is reflected in our research, which found that stress and anxiety levels have fallen since last year, most likely as a result of brokers embracing a more flexible lifestyle.

“However, the flipside of this is that many workers are struggling to disconnect from work and are generally feeling fatigued.”