Stress at work takes centre stage

Stress is a hot topic nowadays, but never more so than during the past few weeks. At the beginning of November it was announced that Antonio Horta-Osorio, the Chief Executive of Lloyds, had become a high-profile victim of work-related stress. It is reported that he is suffering from extreme fatigue and stress due to overwork, and his physical and mental exhaustion has led doctors to urge him to rest for 6-8 weeks. Lloyds’s share price fell dramatically on the day of this announcement.

It just so happened that this news story was being reported at around the same time as the UK’s National Stress Awareness Day on 2 November 2011, and less than one month previously the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) published its 2011 Absence Management Survey, which highlighted that stress is the most common cause of sickness absence in Britain and leads to over 13 million lost working days per year at a cost of £3.7 billion.

The announcement of Antonio Horta-Osorio’s struggle with stress at work served as a clear reminder that stress is something from which nobody is immune (however famous, wealthy or happy they may appear to be). Because people respond differently to stressful situations, and because some people will find situations stressful that may not cause much concern for others, it can sometimes be difficult to have sympathy for a person who claims to be suffering from stress. However, we should avoid being judgemental as we don’t always know what else is going on in a person’s life that may make them less resistant to extra pressure.

Modern life seems to be fraught with everyday anxieties, which aren’t necessarily bad in themselves; a certain amount of stress can in fact be a good thing in order to spur us on to achieve. However, when stress becomes prolonged or excessive it can have a negative effect on a person’s health and wellbeing, and on their ability to be productive at work. Advice on dealing with work-related stress, and physical and mental health issues, can be sought from the free Health for Work Adviceline on 0800 0 77 88 44.

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