November 5, 2014
More than half of workers report feeling stressed, but most keep it secret
New research by Mind to mark today’s National Stress Awareness Day has found more than half of workers (56%) say they find work very or fairly stressful; citing excessive workloads (52%), frustration with poor management (54%), not enough support from managers (47%), threat of redundancy (27%) and unrealistic targets (45%) as key stressors. The YouGov survey of over 1,250 people in Britain found that workplace stress is impacting on other areas of people’s lives, more so than debt or financial problems (38%), health (29%) or relationships (20%). One in five (20%) 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 research also revealed that mental health at work is still a taboo. Nearly a third (30%) of respondents said they wouldn’t be able to talk openly with their line manager if they were stressed.
Of the 14 percent of survey respondents who had a diagnosed mental health problem, fewer than half (45%) had told their current employer.
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.
Yet 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%) or a headache (7%).
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 their 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.”