Did you know that work-related stress anxiety or depression accounts for over half of all working days lost due to ill health in the UK?
It's reported that 15.4 million working days were lost in 2017/2018, up from 12.5 millionthe previous year. This equates to 57.3 % of the 26.8 million work days lost to ill health according to figures by the (HSE) Health and Safety Executive.
I mean wow, those stats are just shocking aren't they?
General Secretary of the (TUC) Trades Union Congress said-
"Work- related stress is a growing epidemic, it's time employers and the Government took it more seriously."
"Managers need to do far more to reduce the causes of stress and support employees struggling to cope. This means tackling issues like excessive workloads and bullying in the office, toxic workplaces are bad for staff and productivity."
That being said, I know there has been a lot of talk and awareness raised for mental health and stress but still see very little support or action being taken in companies (of all size) to tackle this "growing epidemic" head on. I for one know that the majority of people in my circle are greatly effected by stress and anxiety all of which have received little to no support in the workplace.
Unfortunately, there is still very much a stigma attached to stress and people still think they will be seen as weak or incompetent If they admit they are struggling. It is therefore important that an employer takes steps to tackle the work-related cases of stress in its organisation and encourages staff to seek help.
Most common causes of work-related stress
The HSE has identified the seven primary causes of work-related stress to be:
The role and how it fits within an organisation- Staff will feel anxious about their work and the organisation if they don't know what is expected of them and /or understand how their work fits into the objectives of the organisation. I find this is a common concern when speaking to jobseekers. As companies grow and evolve, often expectations of certain job roles can change but unfortunately there is little to no communication of this to employees which can cause huge uncertainty and insecurity.
The demands of the job- Staff can be overloaded if they cannot cope with the amount of work or type of work they are asked to do. I have found this is also a common reason why people start looking for new employment "staff can feel overworked, undervalued and underpaid"
Management style- Staff can feel disaffected and perform poorly if they have no say over how and when they do their work. It's important to remember that everyone works differently, by having an open conversation at the start of someone's employment about how they best work can help management manage their staff effectively for the best results.
Support from managers and colleagues - Staff that feel little to no support in the workplace will often opt for taking sick leave rather than talking to managers about issues troubling them. This can lead to a high turnover of staff, costing the business time and money to replace good employees. This can also cause damage to the brand.
Relationships at work- a failure to build trusted, positive relationships can lead to problems related to depression, discipline, bullying etc, again increasing high turn over of staff.
Presenteeism and Leaveism - Employees that feel a pressure to work long hours and work on holiday can increase the risk of conditions like depression, heart disease and back-pain. I read recently in the newspaper that for people who work at least one 10 hour day in a week increase their chances of a stroke by over 40%.
Pressure from Management- Staff that feel pressured to go into work even when feeling unwell can lead to "burn-out" and further health issues.
Why should employers try to reduce the causes of stress at work?
Firstly, reducing work- related stress can be hugely beneficial to an employer for so many reasons:
- Staff that enjoy going to work are happier at work which in turn improves performance and making staff more productive
- Reduces absence leave
- Reduces workplace disputes
- Decreases turnover of staff and makes the organisation more attractive to job seekers
Secondly, according to acas.org.uk an employer has a legal obligation to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees. "An employer must conduct risk assessments for work-related stress and take actions to prevent staff from experiencing a stress-related illness because of their work."
If you are a business, check out the link below for more information on how to conduct a risk assessment - www.hse.gov.uk/stress.
Our top tips on how to regain control and combat work-related stress!
1- Prioritise your health
Prolonged stress can ultimately lead to physical exhaustion, so it's imperative to pay attention to both your physical and mental wellbeing. Participate in regular exercise, just getting out in the fresh air can work wonders for your state of mind. Make a conscious effort to eat healthy and getting enough sleep as part of your daily routine.
Are you having trouble finding time for exercise?
- Don't worry, finding even 15 minutes-20 minutes a day to exercise will help. You can join a gym or exercise anywhere with video workouts designed for all fitness levels.
- Participate in challenges- challenge friends, family or even colleagues with fitness goals. for e.g achieving 70,000 steps a week, set up a weekly running club etc.
- Join a fitness community- Fitbit are great for this. with the help of their fitness tracker watch and app you can join an online community that share their same goals of getting fit.
Are you having difficulty sleeping because of stress?
If you are anything like me, sleep is one of the first and biggest things effected by stress. Things I have found that have really helped me are;
Headspace App- The free version has 'sleep casts' which are 45-55 minute long audio experiences that help you visualise calming experiences
Sleep Cycle or FitBitt apps are a great way to learn how you slept, it tracks your sleep patterns and provides tips to optimise your snooze time. It has an alarm clock that gently wakes you up when you're in your lightest sleep phase so you'll wake up feeling refreshed.
2. Speak Out and Seek Help
Don't feel as though you need to keep it all in. If you feel that things are getting too much at the workplace, say something and speak to your manager. Your employer should have your best interests at heart and therefore would be open to discussing what can be done to improve your health at work.
3. Strive for a good work/life balance
Balance is the key to being successful in your work life as we all as maintaining your personal life. Ask your employer to consider incorporating 'work from home' or 'flexible working hours'.
There has been a huge increase of companies that have seen the benefit of working in this way and offer this arrangement provided the work still gets done!
Alternatively if this is not an option, perhaps look at asking for more holiday so that you can take the necessary time out of work to relax, re-charge and come back full steam ahead.
4. Organisation and Efficiency
Organisation and efficiency go hand in hand, by planning ahead and working as efficiently as possible when you 're at work can help you avoid undue stress.
Using a free web-based list making application like Trello can help you keep track of everything from the big picture to the minute details. It's a great way for sharing lists and delegating tasks among colleagues.
Finally, try not to take your work home, allow yourself enough down time in the evenings to re-charge mentally and physically.
I hope the above has been helpful in some way. If you are experiencing work-related stress, anxiety and or depression don't be afraid or nervous to seek help. Workplace wellness is such a hot topic of discussion, so it's more important than ever to take action to help yourself and others who are experiencing this to help prevent, combat and minimise the causes and effects of excessive stress.
In the famous words of Bob Marley-
"Don't worry, be happy."
Health and Safety Executive