Over half of employees find work very or fairly stressful, more so than debt or financial problems, health issues or relationships, according to a survey by Mind to mark National Stress Awareness Day.
The YouGov survey of over 1,250 people in Britain found that workplace stress is impacting on other areas of people’s lives. One in five (20 per cent) said it had put a strain on their marriage or relationship with significant other, while 11 per cent had missed important events such as birthdays or weddings. Stress was also having a physical impact, with 53 per cent agreeing that it affected their sleep, 22 per cent their appetite and 27 per cent their physical health.
The poll also highlighted some common sources of stress at work. Frequently cited factors deemed very or fairly stressful included excessive workload (52 per cent), frustration with poor management (54 per cent), not enough support from managers (47 per cent), threat of redundancy (27 per cent) and unrealistic targets (45 per cent).
In times of stress, many people are resorting to unhealthy coping strategies. Nearly one in five (18 per cent) had smoked cigarettes, over half (55 per cent) had drunk alcohol after work and 12 per cent had even drunk alcohol during the working day to cope with workplace stress.
The research also revealed that mental health at work is still a taboo. Nearly a third (30 per cent) of respondents said they wouldn’t be able to talk openly with their line manager if they were stressed. Of the 14 per cent of our survey respondents who had a diagnosed mental health problem, fewer than half (45 per cent) had told their current employer. Mind is calling for employers to create an open culture where people feel able to discuss their wellbeing and tackle the causes of stress among their staff.
Despite the high prevalence of stress at work, staff still don’t feel comfortable telling their employer if stress has caused them to take time off work. Of those who said they’d taken time off sick with stress, just 5 per cent said the main reason they gave their employer was that they were too stressed to work. The remaining 95 per cent cited another reason for their absence, such as an upset stomach (44 per cent) or a headache (7 per cent).
Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, said: “This research reveals the scale of stress among employees. What is really worrying is not just the prevalence of stress and mental health problems at work, but that staff don’t feel supported to help cope with workplace stress.
“We know employers are starting to take mental health at work more seriously, but clearly still have a long way to go in helping tackle the causes of stress and poor mental health at work. People still don’t feel comfortable talking about mental health at work or telling their employer if they’ve been off sick with stress. Yet many staff will be affected by these issues. That’s why it’s so important that organisations proactively manage staff wellbeing, and create an open culture where they employees are able to talk about wellbeing without fear of discrimination or being perceived as weak or incapable.
“Employers don’t necessarily need to put in place costly interventions – small, inexpensive measures can make a huge difference to staff wellbeing. Mind has produced a Wellness Action Plan which is free to download. This resource allows managers and staff to jointly identify their particular causes of stress, and what can be done to address this, before it becomes worse and leads to further problems.”
The charity has developed a range of tools to help employers and employees take simple steps to reduce stress, available at www.mind.org.uk/work.