More than half of employees find their work very or fairly stressful and it is a bigger concern than debt or financial problems, health or relationship issues, according to research.
The survey, by mental health charity Mind, coincides with National Stress Awareness Day. More than 1,250 people in Britain took part and said that workplace stress impacts on other areas of their lives. For instance, 20% said it had put a strain on their marriage or relationship with significant other, while 11% had missed important events such as birthdays or weddings. Stress was also having a physical impact, with 53% saying it affected their sleep, 22% their appetite and 27% their physical health.
Most common source of workplace stress was frustration with poor management – cited by 54% of respondents – followed by excessive workload (52%), not enough support from managers (47%), unrealistic targets (45%) and threat of redundancy (27%).
More worryingly, significant numbers of respondents resorted to unhealthy coping strategies: 18% had smoked cigarettes, 55% had drunk alcohol after work and 12% had even drunk alcohol during the working day to cope with workplace stress.
Linked to this, it seems that mental health is still a taboo subject in many workplaces. 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% of respondents who had a diagnosed mental health problem, only 45% had told their current employer.
Despite the high prevalence of stress at work, staff feel uncomfortable 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% said the main reason they gave their employer was that they were too stressed to work. The remaining 95% cited another reason for their absence, such as an upset stomach (44%) or 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 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 developed a range of tools to help employers and employees take simple steps to reduce stress, available at www.mind.org.uk/work.