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Work-Related Stress and Mental Health Cases Are Increasing in the UK, Here’s What You Can Do About It.

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Dan Bennett
Business Development Manager EMEA
Published On
March 17, 2021
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BLOG
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Have you noticed a spike in reports of stress, sickness absenteeism, resignations, complaints and grievances, and a decreased performance at work recently? These could be signs that your employees are experiencing work-related stress.  

Stress from work is normal. A little of it may even be beneficial as it will motivate employees to be creative, hone their skills, and grow in the business. But if people complain about dealing with stress at work all the time, that could have a huge impact on your business.  

Unfortunately, work-related stress among workers has been on the rise in the UK. In 2019/20, about 1.6 million workers were suffering from work-related ill-health. Over half of this number states the cause is stress, depression, or anxiety. This is a clear sign that businesses need to take and address stress and mental health seriously.  

What is work-related stress?

According to HSE, stress is “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them.”

The latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) show that the total number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2019/20 was 828,000. A prevalence rate of 2,440 per 100,000 workers. This was statistically significantly higher than the previous period.

Employees can be stressed if the tasks assigned to them are too many or too demanding for their current skill set. Or if the deadlines are too near each other. They may also feel stressed if there is not enough training or mentoring at work to help steer them in the right direction.  

What are the impacts of work-related stress?

Work-related stress affects people differently. What may be stressful to one may not affect another at all.  

However, there is evidence that prolonged suffering from stress can increase the risk to physical health like cardiovascular diseases and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.  

Apart from these, stress could also lead to behavioural changes such as mood swings, aggression, being withdrawn, or alcohol/drug abuse. This can cause tension in the workplace and damage working relationships as well as family and friends connections.

How does work-related stress, depression, anxiety impact businesses?

The latest survey from the HSE states that work-related stress, depression, and anxiety have led to a loss of 17.9 million working days. That’s equal to an average of 21.6 working days lost per case.  

Meanwhile, the University of Cambridge has listed the following as effects of work-related stress on organizations:  

● High absenteeism  

● High labour turnover  

● Poor timekeeping  

● Poor performance and productivity  

● Low morale  

● Poor motivation

● Increased employee complaints  

● Increased ill-health, accidents, and incidents reports  

If all these are left unchecked, businesses can lose the best employees and clients, and ultimately, revenues.  

What can businesses do to reduce work-related stress, depression, and anxiety for employees?

Businesses are legally bound to protect employees from stress at work by implementing a routine stress risk assessment and to use the findings to take positive action.  

If the assessment reveals that excessive workload is the main cause of work-related stress and mental health issues at your workplace, you can address this by:

● Matching the skills of an employee with the right role and responsibilities.  

● Hiring the right number of personnel in a department to avoid overloading of work.

● Making use of technology to automate and streamline some recurring tasks.

● Ensuring that there is enough time to finish tasks before the deadlines by careful planning.  

You can also offer programs designed to support and help employees and managers handle stress better, such as:

● Conducting stress management workshops,  

● Encouraging open communication about work-related stress and mental health among employees and with managers.

● Equipping managers, human resources, and the occupational health team with the right communication tools for handling conversations with stressed workers.

Ensure your workforce have adequate rest breaks and encourage them to take them without fear.

All these help managers identify and address the problems.  

What can you do to relieve work-related stress, depression, and anxiety?

Businesses are only learning to take work-related stress and mental health seriously more recently and there is a lot of EHS conversations taking place across EHS professionals. However, it is also important that workers know how to protect themselves from it.  

1.    Learn to prioritise tasks. This will help you avoid becoming overwhelmed.  

2.    Ask for help or delegate tasks to other workers. You don’t have to do everything alone.

3.    Say no to tasks if you are already fully loaded. This helps managers know the current capacity and helps them decide whether an additional workforce is necessary.  

4.    Work regular hours, take breaks, and make use of given holidays. Remember that you have a life and relationships outside work. Nurture them.  

5.    Focus on things you can control instead of ones you cannot change.  

6.    Protect your boundaries by avoiding answering emails and texts sent to you beyond office hours.

At home, always remember to get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, and exercise to help manage your stress levels. You can also:

● Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or breathwork.  

● Take up a hobby.

● Find supportive forums and groups.

Conclusion

While stress affects people differently, it still has an impact on employees and businesses. Thus, businesses and individuals need to take work-related stress and mental health issues seriously.  

Improving the health and well-being of employees brings a cascade of benefits. This includes a high commitment to work, balanced morale in the workplace, better relationships among workers and managers, a great work culture that builds loyalty, high performance, improved work quality, lower accidents, and higher retention of clients.  

These equal lower costs and higher revenues for the business.  

All these positive benefits because the health and well-being of employees are put at the front and centre of businesses.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Bennett

Dan has been in the technology industry for 7 years and covers the EMEA Region for Airsweb. Over the last few years, Dan has had numerous engaging conversations with EHS Professionals across many different industries and organisational sizes understanding the challenges they all face with culture, technology and change. He has a passion for discussing emerging user demands and how organisations can harness technology to remain sustainable.

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