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A stress-free life is on employees’ New Year wish list

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The top priority on UK workers’ New Year wish lists is likely to be less stress at work, indicates new research.

94% of the 594 respondents to the Hewitt Bacon & Woodrow survey admitted that work causes them stress. Half of the employees said having ‘too much to do and not enough time to do it in’ is their biggest problem, while 43% blamed bad management and a quarter attributed stress to long working hours.

Despite this, less than a third of workers are willing to ask their boss for help to reduce stress and only 12% said they would go to the HR department for advice. Instead, workers look to combat stress outside the office either by ‘living for weekends’ (42%), booking holidays and weekends away (47%) or drowning their sorrows (37%). Worryingly, one in five employees said they let off steam by daydreaming about hitting a boss or colleague.

Paul Osgood, a workplace expert at Hewitt, said: “It’s interesting that stress is very much caused within the office rather than by external factors such as travelling to work. The holiday break may not provide the welcome relief many workers are hoping for, with increasing time pressure at work leaving less time to organise things for the festive period. In spite of this, employees feel unwilling to seek help or advice from their line manager or HR department in reducing stress levels.”

He continued: “This puts the onus on managers to take the initiative to communicate more effectively with employees and encourage them to come forward with their concerns. By taking steps to reduce stress, they’ll get a happier, more productive workforce – which is in everyone’s interests and promises a good start to 2004.”

The survey also found that the causes and remedies for stress vary according to age or gender of employees.

– A fifth of 55-64 year olds cite their pension as one of the biggest causes of stress.

– A quarter of 16-24 year olds find Monday mornings particularly stressful, although this seems to bother employees less as they get older.

– Female employees are nearly twice as likely to over-eat or snack to relieve stress. 26% turn to food compared with 14% of men.

– Encouragingly, half of the youngest group (16-24 year olds) go to the gym to relieve stress.

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