Research commissioned by Mind and carried out with over 2,000 people has found that work is the most stressful factor in people’s lives with one in three people (34%) saying their work life was either ‘very’ or ‘quite’ stressful (compared to 30% who cited debt or financial problems as the most stressful factor, and 17% who named health).
Some key figures from the research are summarised below, which demonstrate not only the prevalence of work-related stress but the extent to which employees attempt to conceal their problems:
- Effects of stress on mental health: Workplace stress has resulted in an increase in the number of people having suicidal thoughts (as high as 10% amongst 18 to 24 year olds) and one in five people (18%) developing anxiety.
- Use of medication, drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism: 57% of respondents said they drink after work and 14% report drinking during the working day to cope with workplace stress and pressure. Other coping mechanisms people cited were smoking (28%), antidepressants (15%), over the counter sleeping aids (16%) and prescribed sleeping tablets (10%).
- Coming forward about mental health problems: 19% said they felt they couldn’t tell their boss if they were overly stressed and less than half of the 22% of respondents who had been diagnosed with a mental health condition had actually told their boss about their diagnosis.
- Impact of stress on employees’ ability to do their jobs: 19% of respondents said they have taken a day off sick because of stress, but 90% of those people cited a different reason for their absence. 9% have resigned from a job due to stress and 25% have considered resigning due to work pressure.
This research demonstrates very clearly the importance of communication and openness between employees and line managers/employers. It is damaging to employees not to tackle their mental health issues and to attempt to carry on regardless. And it’s ultimately damaging for organisations not to support employees who are experiencing issues; staff who are dealing with their own internal battles are unlikely to be working to their full potential.
Worryingly, however, Mind’s research revealed that 46% of managers said they would like to do more to improve staff mental wellbeing but that it is not a priority in their organisation. However, the survey did show that over half of managers (56%) said they would like to do more to improve staff mental wellbeing but needed more training and/or guidance. Luckily this guidance is available for managers from the free Health for Work Adviceline (0800 0 77 88 44).