Is workplace stress becoming an epidemic?
To coincide with European Health and Safety Week, the TUC has published new advice on managing stress at work (available at www.tuc.org.uk).
Workplace stress leads to 11.3 million lost work days in the UK and accounts for 39% of all work-related illness. Although many employers accept that stress is a major problem in their workplace, few have any idea of how to tackle it effectively.
Figures show that about 244,000 new cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety were diagnosed in the UK in 2013/14. This means that, on average, a worker somewhere in the UK is made ill through stress at work every two minutes.
Heart damage and stroke are among the symptoms of stress, which can also include loss of appetite, nausea, sleeplessness, listlessness, clinical depression and suicide.
The TUC’s guide highlights the fact that stress is not a weakness or fault of an individual, but can affect anyone at any time. It also emphasises that employers have a legal responsibility to reduce or remove anything at work that could make staff ill and that includes workplace stress.
It has been demonstrated that people who experience high anxiety are less productive and are more likely to take time off and a recent survey has shown that a quarter of people in the UK have taken time off work due to stress in the last five years, with more than half hiding the reason from colleagues.
The biggest fear amongst those in the private sector was that being absent through stress might affect job security.
Stress is a real factor in the workplace and managers should be trained to recognise the signs, not to shy away from having those difficult conversations and to conduct effective and meaningful return to work interviews so that they can get to the root of the problem, and work with the employee to find a resolution.