What’s holding your career back?

13 October 2021

Here Naomi Humber – Clinical Psychologist and Head of Mental Wellbeing- reveals how to give your career a boost in 2021 and beyond

With so much change in the workplace over the last 18 months, it has been hard to focus on career development goals. Whether you’re hoping to progress yourself, or keen to encourage your team to develop their skillsets, here we share advice on how to take a career to the next level.

New research from Bupa has identified key areas of development for managers to focus on in 2021 and beyond:

  • 72% of UK employees didn’t take a sick day in 2020
  • 40% of the UK workforce would like to see initiatives to boost team morale
  • 34% of older workers (55-64) find the workplace less inclusive when working remotely
  • 17% of employees reported working longer hours has had a negative impact on their wellbeing

As we look to the future, it’s important for employers to support the health and wellbeing of their teams by providing wellbeing initiatives – such as access to health services, promoting work-life balance and career progression opportunities. As a result, businesses will benefit from a talented, resilient and motivated workforce.

An Analysis of Google search habits over the last year has found a surge in searches relating to negative working environments

  • 357% increase in Google searches for ‘boreout’
  • 180% increase in Google searches for ‘imposter syndrome at work’
  • 89% increase in Google searches for ‘anxiety at work’
  • 83% increase in Google searches for ‘presenteeism’

For businesses to promote a positive working culture and support employee wellbeing it is important to first understand workplace-related health issues. We’ve spoken to Naomi Humber, Clinical Psychologist and Head of Mental Wellbeing at Bupa, who explains common mental health issues many employees experience at work. As well as sharing her thoughts on why there has been a rise in searches for negative work environments over the past few months and how they might hold you back from progressing at work.


Boreout is a mental health syndrome you experience when you feel as though your work is repetitive or doesn’t challenge your abilities enough and can often leave you feeling anxious, stressed, or fatigued.

While many people’s workload increased during the pandemic, many others found themselves with less work to do than before. So, it’s no surprise many employees may have experienced boreout over the last 12 months, reduction in workload and lack of social interaction with your colleagues whilst working from home can leave you feeling underwhelmed in your working life.

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a form of self-doubt. You might feel as though you’re not as capable as your colleagues or able to carry out your role as well as expected. Often those who experience imposter syndrome are high achievers and find it difficult to accept their achievements and praise.

It is normal to experience feelings of self-doubt from time to time, especially when starting a new job or taking on a new responsibility. However, with the increase of remote working, national lockdowns and so much change to our working lives, emotions have been amplified. Meaning the pressure to perform in all aspects of life (not just work) have led to heightened feelings of imposter syndrome.

Anxiety at work

Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress and can leave you feeling, unsettled or worried about the future. Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety at some point in their life, for example in the run up to a job interview or giving a presentation.

Work anxiety can be caused by a number of factors such as, a negative work environment, tight deadlines, a high workload and job insecurity.

Over the past year we have all faced uncertainty and change in our working lives – which has been a stressful time for many employees. Resulting in an increase in those experiencing anxiety in the workplace. As we look towards the future business leaders should aim to address anxiety as a mental health concern and offer wellbeing services to support their teams as we adjust to the new normal.


While there are many wellbeing issues impacting employee health and wellbeing, last year we saw a decrease in the number of sick days taken by UK employees. This trend is known as presenteeism {PDF, 2MB} – where employees continue to work although they may be experiencing poor health.

There are lots of things that can cause presenteeism. For example, an employee may not take sick leave as they can’t afford to take the time off work due to illness. Other causes might include:

  • Worrying that taking time off may negatively impact your career prospects
  • Blurred lines between home and work
  • Feeling under pressure to be visible all the time if you’re a manager

A business with a healthy and happy workforce will thrive and presenteeism can have a negative impact on employee wellbeing. With a global pandemic causing a recession and job insecurity, it’s not surprising that absences for sickness were lower in 2020. However, supporting your team’s wellbeing and encouraging them to take the time off that they need to recover when they are ill, are both contributing factors to creating a healthy, engaged and productive team.

UK employees are searching for advice when it comes to career progression

An analysis into the UK’s searching habits found a surge of interest for career-boosting tips during the pandemic:

  • 133% increase in Google searches for ‘positive work environment’
  • 60% increase in Google searches for ‘career development plan’
  • 69% increase in Google searches for ‘personal development goals’
  • 55% increase in Google searches for ‘job progression’

Career development opportunities are one-way employers can support employees in developing their skillset. Whilst also boosting employee motivation and wellbeing. Further learning doesn’t have to be directly linked to their current role either - it may open up new opportunities for career progression and personal growth.

Four simple ways to give your career a boost

  • 1. Outline your goals and set an action plan

    Knowing your end goal can help to create a roadmap for the future. It’s okay if your goals or plans change along the way. Having a target to focus on can act as a strong motivating factor, as well as guidance when looking for new opportunities.

  • 2. Be self-aware

    It’s important to take the time to work on the areas of your role (or future role you’re aspiring towards) where you may be lacking skills and confidence. Identify the skill you’d like to build upon and spend time working on this each week.

    For example, if you’d like to develop your presenting skills, make your manager aware this is a skill you’d like to develop and ask if there are any upcoming opportunities for you to practise.

  • 3. Try new things

    One of the key parts of career development is mastering existing skills and building new ones. When looking to expand your skillset don’t be afraid to try new things out of your comfort zone. Whether this is suggesting and trialling new ways of doing everyday tasks or re looking at work processes which could be improved, there’s lots of ways to explore new things whilst also developing a range of skills.

    Remember, skills development doesn’t always have to be directly linked to your role. Learning a new language or joining a club all count towards developing your skills. The personal growth from exploring something new can also lead you to develop new skills that transfer over to your career progression.

  • 4. Don’t be afraid to ask for support

    Talk to others about your career goals and intentions – this can help to connect you with likeminded individuals you can learn new skills from.

    For example, speaking to your manager about your career aspirations can help. They may be able to introduce you to company programs aimed at career growth and skills development. Or share any networking or training sessions they think you would benefit from. Similarly, next time there is a project that involves skills you’d like to develop they may put you forward to help, if they are aware of your interests and goals.

How to support your team with career development as a manager

  • 1. Check in and provide regular feedback

    Being open and available to talk to your team about their career aspirations can help them feel supported in achieving their goals. Talking to your team about their role, finding out any areas they enjoy as well as areas they’d like to progress will help them to develop.

    Similarly, set time aside for annual and quarterly reviews to help your team visualise their future with your business, as this will ensure your employees stay engaged and feel valued.

  • 2. Share new opportunities

    When it comes to career progression, you can lead by example and share further learning opportunities with your team. For example, putting a member of your team forward to attend a learning session or industry networking event.

  • 3. Promote workplace wellbeing

    A negative working environment can hinder employee engagement and career development. Promoting employee wellbeing can help create a positive work environment and reduce the impact of work-related illnesses such as stress and presenteeism. Leading to a happy and healthy workforce that are motivated to further their skills and progress within their role.

  • 4. Continue to pursue your own career goals

    To be successful in supporting your team with developing their career, continue to set yourself new goals to achieve. Recognising your strengths and achievements as well as working towards new goals can help to boost your own self confidence. It also sets a positive example for your teams to follow. Most importantly, set time aside to develop your own skillset, as this will help you to grow both professionally and personally.


    • Bupa UK. Workplace Wellbeing Census 2021 {PDF, 1MB }, Workplace Wellbeing Census 2021
    • CIPD. Employee Health and Wellbeing., accessed 16th September 2021
    • Redekopp DE and Huston MH. The broader aims of career development: mental health, wellbeing and work. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling. [Online]. 2018, 47(1):1-12.,

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