Author – IAM Team
Last month, was stress awareness month in the UK. It is a month where health professionals and health promotion specialists join forces to increase awareness. So we thought that we would outline some of the research about work-related stress and the complexity of the issue.
In 2014/2015, 440,000 people in the UK reported work-related stress at a level they believed was making them ill, which equates to 40% of all work-related illness. The HSE define work-related stress as a “harmful reaction that people have to undue pressures and demands place on them at work”, of which stress can lead to additional psychological distress and also physical illness. So despite work related stress being a term people are increasingly using, why does it also appear to be becoming more prevalent?
The CV library conducted a piece of research which found 25.5% of participants stated they had taken time off work due to stress, whilst 24.5% said they felt the need to keep it to themselves. Reported causes for feeling stressed included:
- Not having enough time in the day to complete tasks (60.9%)
- Being rushed (68.1%)
- Feeling underappreciated (51.9%)
- Dealing with poor management (19.7%)
- Colleagues, including feeling they are lazy (13.8%)
- Failing to maintain a good work/life balance (6.9%)
What is concerning from these results were some of the coping strategies people adopted including: “comfort eating” and “having a few drinks”. Not only will stress alongside negative health behaviours impact health further, but research has also found 80% of employees will not take time off for work related stress (Canada life group insurance). This would suggest that people are reaching a breaking point, at which point they are then having to take work off due to illness.
The proportion of employees struggling is unsustainable, but what with a stigma being attached to the issue people are suffering in silence. Some of the reasons provided for people not taking time off were cited as financial pressures, excessive workloads, or that they would be viewed as lazy.
More companies are showing their commitment to employee well-being, however as made clear by the above, the reasons for people feeling stressed are vast, but there are further contributing factors, not detailed above, such as individual resilience it makes pinpointing an intervention difficult.
So what can organisations do?
There are different interventions that can be considered: personal (psychological intervention), organisational (job re-design, work-life balance policies) and individual interventions (e.g. exercise, meditation, social support from colleagues). Often though, these are not all captured together and workplace changes are separated from public health approaches. More recently, Bhui et al (2016) highlighted the importance of management characteristics (including communication , supportiveness, approachability and being appreciative), yet organisational interventions reviewed did not address this, despite ranking highly for perceived effectiveness. Their secondary findings, were that stress was indeed less reported for organisations with more managerial interventions.
What is clear is that there are positive steps towards recognising and reducing stigma, but seems more research is needed into work place stress and well as providing organisations more support in identifying risk factors and potential interventions that would benefit their organisation specifically.
What are your experiences of work place interventions combating stress?
IQ Verify (part of the IQ Group) – offers a psychosocial risk standard, which looks at identifying psychosocial risk in the workplace.
- Health and Safety Executive: Work Related Stress, Anxiety and Depression Statistics in Great Britain 2015. HSE, 2015 (http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/stress.pdf).
- Bhui, K., Dinos, S., Galant-Miecznikowska, M., Jongh, B., & Stansfeld, S. (2016). Perceptions of work stress causes and effective interventions in employees working in public, private and non-governmental organisations: a qualitative study. BJPsych Bulletin, 1-8. (http://pb.rcpsych.org/content/pbrcpsych/early/2016/07/10/pb.bp.115.050823.full.pdf)
- CV Library Research – Stress at work: (http://www.cv-library.co.uk/recruitment-insight/stress-at-work/)