Workplace getting more stressful, says report

Some 80 per cent of senior executives say the workplace is a more stressful place than five years ago, with three quarters blaming mobile technology for creating a more stressful environment, according to new research.

A survey by Russam GMS found 60 per cent of respondents said their employers expect them to answer emails outside of work hours and a fifth of respondents said that “switching off from work at home” is their biggest challenge in terms of looking after their health.

Other contributors of stress included more demanding financial targets, the pressure to be on call 24/7 and email which ‘makes things relentless’.

At the same time, more than 80 per cent of senior executives said their company has no procedures in place for recognising stress in the workplace, although 95 per cent said they would recognise if one of their colleagues were stressed.

Fewer than 15 per cent of companies offer staff briefings about stress in the workplace or stress counselling or mentoring programmes.

For those organisations that are offering some kind of stress management techniques the most common is informal appraisals where stress might be mentioned.

Ian Joseph, Managing Director, Russam GMS, said: “A 24/7 working culture and increased use of mobile technology has made it difficult for people to switch off and is contributing to stress in the workplace. Stress is one of the leading causes of health problems and absence in the workplace so it’s surprising that organisations are doing so little to recognise it or offer help to deal with it. Senior executives today are expected not only to have business skills, drive and ambition, they also need to be fit and resilient in order to cope with today’s demanding economic environment, companies that are failing to support and encourage their staff to be healthier and tackle stress are storing up problems for the future.”

Some 70 per cent of respondents said a company would be a more attractive employer if they offered more health benefits, and almost a quarter said they would prefer more health and well-being benefits to a pay rise.

However, a quarter of companies offered no benefits at all and almost two thirds didn’t encourage employees to take regular breaks from their desks.

The top health benefits people would like are measures to encourage cycling, running or walking to work, mindfulness sessions, fitness classes at work, meditation and yoga sessions, plus more health advice available on the intranet.

Of those companies that do offer health benefits, the top four benefits are private health insurance, cycle to work schemes, encouraging lunch breaks and subsidised gym membership.

Joseph adds: “Putting benefits in place to help employees be healthier and less stressed is crucial. These don’t have to be complicated or expensive. Initiatives such as having fruit in meetings, encouraging people to take regular breaks from their desk and allowing them time to visit the gym can contribute to people’s good health and support their well-being.

“If organisations are going to be fit for the future, leaders need to recognise the issue of stress and do something about it. Setting expectations about the use of mobiles and unplugging from emails during holidays is something senior executives should be doing as matter of course and leading by example.”

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