Research has found that workplace stress is having a greater impact on individuals than relationship breakdowns. According to recent research conducted by Westfield Health, more than a quarter of workers (27%) ranked their job as more stressful than a relationship breakdown (8%). These worrying statistics highlight the negative effects of workplace stress on individuals, surpassing even stressful personal circumstances.
These findings are consistent with other recent research indicating that mental health in the UK workforce is declining. On average, employees are taking a week off work due to mental health issues every year, yet a staggering 66% aren’t accessing any mental health support. As a result, an astounding 17.9 million working days were lost across the UK in 2022, having a direct impact on businesses in terms of costs related to employee absences.
Given that more than 800,000 workers were affected by stress in 2022, it is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed. More than half (51%) of all work-related ill health cases were due to stress, depression or anxiety, up from 40% in 2014, highlighting a new priority for businesses to focus on.
If unchecked, these figures pose a substantial threat not just to individuals’ long-term mental health, but also to employers. There are proven links between workplace stress levels and drops in productivity, which can directly impact a company’s bottom line.
Richard Holmes, Director of Wellbeing at Westfield Health, says: “The research shows a definite shift in how people are perceiving their work life, with more people suffering from the negative impacts of workplace stress and finding it even more stressful than their personal circumstances. These findings give employers an insight into the issues their workforce is facing, with workplace stress becoming a new priority and allowing them to address and potentially resolve some of these stress triggers.”
“With increased cost-of-living pressures accompanying high levels of workplace stress, this can become a huge risk factor for organisations. Not only does workplace stress impact morale and culture, but it can also have detrimental effects on productivity, staff turnover and ultimately the company’s bottom line.”
Employers must be aware of the tell-tale signs of workplace stress within an organisation to reduce the negative impact it can have on the business. Team members having difficulty concentrating, forgetting deadlines or displaying unusual behaviours can all be indicators of stress. Additionally, employees taking an unusual number of days off, particularly sudden instances of extended annual leave, may also be a warning sign, advises Richard.
“HR teams should be well equipped to spot, approach and support employees in managing workplace stress. This support could include encouraging them to take time out by making sure they take regular breaks, frequent catchups between managers and employees, and additional support such as providing helplines for employees that may be struggling.
“Overall, businesses should try and create a positive culture where employees are encouraged to be open and honest about how they are feeling. This approach could help to reduce the incidence of workplace stress in the first place and empower those who may be struggling with stress to speak up to HR or their manager on how the business can support them.”