The workplace is busier than ever before due to an ‘always-on’ culture that is leaving employees and managers with burnout. New research from global health service company Cigna reveals that 87% of managers admit to having their work phone on them outside of office hours and when on annual leave, setting an unhealthy precedent for staff. And holidays appear to be few and far between, with 62% of managers not taking their full annual leave – and over a third (37%) admitting to working whilst on holiday. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that Cigna’s annual global 360 Global Well-Being Survey revealed that 87% of workers feel stressed and 12% feel their stress is unmanageable.
And employees are painting a similar picture of an ‘always-on’ environment with 1 in 5 (20%) making themselves contactable for clients and colleagues whilst on annual leave, and 1 in 10 (11%) even cancelling annual leave due to work commitments. With the risk of burnout so high, the research revealed that employees are not taking time off to recover from stress with nearly half (47%) admitting to having felt stressed but not taking a sick day from work – because they would feel guilty (35%) for doing so.
In fact, only 1 in 10 workers have taken a sick day off due to stress-related issues in the last year, but felt they were unable to admit the real reason for doing so – with the majority (64%) either claiming they have a physical illness, or not giving a reason at all.
Nearly half (44%) of managers have not been trained in stress management, resulting in stress not being an easy topic to discuss in the workplace. The research has revealed that British people are more likely to speak to their partner (46%), family (32%) or friends (29%) when feeling stressed – and only 14% would speak to a doctor or medical professional.
Today, Cigna announced the launch of its “See Stress Differently” campaign which aims to raise awareness of stress, encourage people to talk to their medical professional about stress, and create a clear plan for people to better manage stress and its side effects.
This reluctance to seek professional help is leading to unhealthy coping mechanisms, with a quarter (25%) admitting to stress eating and, worryingly, 1 in 7 (14%) believing that alcohol reduces their stress levels. Chronic stress can be very harmful to health and wellbeing and can have a major impact on people’s ability to perform at work, engage socially and enjoy life. It’s widely recognised stress affects physical health too, with 62% of respondents recognising the link. Problems sleeping (85%), headaches (75%), and high blood pressure (71%) are the most common physical symptoms.
But managers would like their employees to be more open about their stress as 61% would like their employees to be more transparent about the help they need to deal with stress, and 51% would prefer that their employees tell them when they need to take a day off due to stress. And for these conversations, proper training needs to take place. Nearly half (44%) of managers in the UK have not been trained to deal with stress, and this grows to 83% of managers at SMEs – proving there is a real need for those businesses to get onboard with managing stress properly.
Phil Austin, Cigna Europe CEO, said: “Mental health and physical health – mind and body – are interconnected. We’re taking action so that people and healthcare professionals better understand the link means we can do more, sooner, to help people stay healthy. We can’t hide from the fact that the workplace is a stressful place to be, but what we can do is give managers and employees the tools to manage their stress in a structured and engaging way.
“Cigna wants to help the world take control of stress and hopes to reduce stress-related chronic illnesses. By taking a proactive approach to manage stress, we can lead happier, healthier and longer lives and by encouraging people to seek the right advice, we can potentially, save lives as part of our core mission to improve the health, well-being and peace of mind of those we serve.”
Dr Peter Mills, Cigna Medical Director, said: “Modern technology has led to an “always-on” culture in the workplace that can be toxic for mental and physical health. Whilst it is important to have a supportive social group during stressful times, the best person you can speak to is your doctor.
“When people fall into a habit of trying to treat the physical symptoms of stress, rather than the root cause, the results can have long term impact on their mental and physical health. That’s why we need to adopt a more open approach to healthcare – and chronic stress in particular – that addresses both the physical and mental effects, or as I like to call it: Whole Person Health”