New report: Stress time-bomb affects 1 in 4 UK workers

  • 25 percent of employees have taken time off due to stress in the last year
  • Employee mental health identified as major impact on productivity
  • Stress keeps two thirds of UK working population awake at night
  • Almost half would not approach their employers with stress-related worries

 

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The report, titled “Breaking the Cycle”, which has been published by health and wellbeing provider BHSF, warns that stress-related issues are having a major impact on workplace productivity and that more than half of employees feel unable to approach their employer about their problems.

The report specifically highlights how a potent combination of professional and personal stress triggers are leading to significant mental health and absenteeism issues, with finances (31 percent), job stresses (26 percent) and family life (19 percent) being the greatest contributors to absenteeism.

Brian Hall, Managing Director of BHSF Employee Benefits, says:

“This report paints a devastating portrait of how professional and personal stress-triggers are directly leading to mental health issues and absenteeism on an unprecedented scale, which is, unfortunately, being chronically under-estimated by employers and is a potential time-bomb under workplace productivity.”

He continues: “Employees and their employers are caught in a vicious cycle, which begins with a gradual build-up of stress, both inside and outside work, leading onto job performance issues, absenteeism and ultimately long-term sick leave.”

The report highlights how productivity is being impacted when employees go into work, despite suffering from illness or mental health issues – this is otherwise referred to as ‘presenteeism’. In fact, nearly two thirds (63 percent) of the UK’s working population say that stress keeps them awake at night, leaving them physically and mentally unable to perform their duties.

What’s more, 58 percent have admitted going into work despite suffering from health or stress issues and over half of the working population admit that they feel pressure from their employer to quickly return to work in the event of illness.

However, the findings also demonstrate that the stigma of stress or mental health issues is still very much alive within the workplace. 53 percent of respondents admitted that they would not approach their employer with a mental health issue and only 17 percent of workers benefit from employer mental health initiatives.

“The continuing reluctance to approach employers with stress or mental health issues is hiding the true scale of the problem. Many of the issues that contribute to stress are outside an employer’s direct control, but those issues are clearly having an impact on productivity and employee performance.”

One of the key areas of concern highlighted in the report is the lack of a financial safety net for many employees, in the form of income protection or sick pay insurance, with 71 percent of respondents admitting that their company offers no support, above and beyond statutory sick pay, and more than 80 percent have no personal sick pay or income protection policy.

“The lack of a financial safety net for nearly three quarters of the entire working population, vividly illustrates the tightrope that many employees are walking,” says Mr Hall. “There is a clear path, starting with the build-up of stress which leads onto long-term sick leave, but few employees have the financial resources to cope with the inevitable income drop, which only creates stress and even more worries.”

He continues:

“Our objective with this research is not to blame employers, but to help them gain a much better understanding of the issues involved and, hopefully, encourage a more proactive approach to employee wellbeing. Over the long-term this approach can help build a much more resilient workforce, able to withstand the pressures of modern life and, ultimately, improve productivity.”

Absence management expert Adrian Lewis of Activ Absence, said he was saddened but not surprised to hear about today’s research:

“We so often see high figures for stress absence.  Sadly employees are reluctant to talk to managers, research shows they will blame a cold if they take time off due to stress or depression.  Accurate recording of absence (ideally using an automated system), followed up by a gentle face-to-face return to work interview will give managers vital opportunities to identify a potential problem and offer a stressed employee support as soon as possible.  Once it reaches the point where employees are on long term sick, everyone loses, so getting pro-active about managing stress at work and losing the stigma is vital for both workers and businesses.”

The Breaking the Cycle report is available from the BHSF website: www.bhsf.co.uk/employeestress

Author: Editorial Team

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