Employees are experiencing high levels of stress, yet many still feel unable to tell their bosses that this is the reason for taking sick leave.
A survey commissioned by the charity Mind, show that staff are experiencing high levels of stress. Over half of those surveyed (56 per cent) said they found work very or fairly stressful, more so than debt or financial problems (38 per cent), health (29 per cent), or relationships (20 per cent). These findings tie in with my own practical experience when working with stressed clients as a counsellor in Hastings.
The survey found that workplace stress is impacting on other areas of people’s lives. One in five said it had put a strain on their marriage or relationship with significant other, while 11% had missed important events such as birthdays or weddings. Stress was also having a physical impact, with 53% agreeing that it affected their sleep, 22% their appetite, and more than a quarter their physical health. The poll also highlighted some common sources of stress at work. Frequently cited factors deemed very or fairly stressful included excessive workload (52 per cent), frustration with poor management (54 per cent), not enough support from managers (47 per cent), threat of redundancy (27 per cent) and unrealistic targets (45 per cent). In times of stress, many people are resorting to unhealthy coping strategies, such as drink and smoking.
The research also revealed that mental health at work is still a taboo. Nearly a third of respondents said they wouldn’t be able to talk openly with their line manager if they were stressed. Of the 14% of respondents who had a diagnosed mental health problem, only 45% had told their current employer.
Despite the high prevalence of stress at work, staff still don’t feel comfortable telling their employer if stress has caused them to take time off work. Of those who said they’d taken time off sick with stress, just 5% said the main reason they gave their employer was that they were too stressed to work.
As a practising therapist in Hastings, I am concerned not just about the scale of stress at work, but also that people don’t feel supported to help cope with that stress. Some employers are starting to take the issue more seriously, but where people are concerned about talking to their managers, the safety of the counselling room might offer the best place to start to deal with the problems of stress.