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Jamie Lawrence


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News: Work is biggest cause of stress in people’s lives


Work is the most stressful factor in peoples’ lives, with one in three people (34 percent) saying their work life was either very or quite stressful, above debt or financial problems (30 percent) and health (17 percent).

This is according to a study of 2000 people conducted by mental health charity Mind.

Frustration with poor management was cited as the top cause of workplace stress – 32 percent said this was either very stressful or quite stressful. One in four (26 percent) cited excessive workload, while 25 percent pointed to insufficient support from managers. A quarter (25 percent) cited unrealistic targets.

Other revelations from the survey:

  • One in five people (19 percent) take a day off sick because of stress, but 90 percent give a different reason for their absence
  • One in ten (nine percent) have resigned from a job due to stress, while 25 percent have considered resigning due to work pressure
  • One in five (19 percent) felt they couldn’t tell their boss if they were overly stressed
  • Of the 22 per cent of those surveyed who have a diagnosed mental health problem, less than half (10 per cent) had actually told their boss about their diagnosis.

Line managers reported wanting to do more to improve staff mental wellbeing, but 56 percent said they required more training and guidance. A further 46 percent said this wasn’t a priority in their organisation.

Employers don’t believe managers are being proactive in tackling workplace stress – just one in five people said they felt their line manager took active steps to help staff manage stress (22 percent) or mental health conditions (19 percent).

These statistics do not really come as a surprise – we’ve known about the ‘stigma’ of mental health for a long time. For HR, this stigma can have negative effects on employee happiness, productivity and long-term engagement, all of which have a knock-on effect on the bottom line.

HR must tackle taboos and ensure that all discussions around mental health, including self-reporting by managers, are handled as transparently and maturely as possible. Recognising that positive mental health is a major factor in business success is crucial, and offering support to promote healthy mental health among employees should be a priority for any HR department.

Chief Executive of Mind, Paul Farmer, said: ‘Work related mental health problems are an issue too important for businesses to ignore. Our research shows that employees are still experiencing high levels of stress at work, which is negatively impacting their physical and mental health. We know that right now, one in six workers is experiencing depression, stress or anxiety and yet our survey tells us that most managers don’t feel they have had enough training or guidance to support them.

‘Improving mental wellbeing in the workplace doesn’t have to cost a lot. Our research shows that people whose organisations offered flexible working hours and generous annual leave said such measures supported their mental wellbeing. Three in five people said that if their employer took action to support the mental wellbeing of all staff, they would feel more loyal, motivated, committed and be likely to recommend their workplace as a good place to work.’

4 Responses

  1. money and work

    We spend almost third part of life at work (some people work even more) and that’s why job is a very important thing which seriously affect our life. Work helps us to make money and create our financial wellbeing, needless to say that money takes one of the most important places. Our income irectly affects our mood and lifestyle. Problems at work often cause finanial problems and make consumers feel nervous and frustrated. And people who have financial problems often live through faxless online loans and are very stressed. It’s necessary to control your psychological health and don’t let problems at work to affect you.


  2. Tackle the root causes not the symptoms

    The problem of merely "managing stress" is that this seems to be only trying to manage the symptom, rather than truly understanding the root causes for why people feel so distressed in the first place. What is it precisely about the poor way that managers are managing that causes distress? What is the underlying cause for the excessive workload – too much work, too much of the wrong things being done (i.e. failure demand), too many unachievable targets and SLAs, etc? What exactly is the nature of the insufficient support, what do people say they need in terms of support?

    Unless and until executives, managers, HR people and staff get proper knowledge and understanding of the what and why of this pernicious disease in our workplaces, we will simply see the incidents and consequences getting worse. 

  3. Prevention

    Hi Jessica,

    I think it would help and agree that prevention is a very important aspect of managing workplace stress. When managers feel empowered to be proactive on reducing stress then it understandably becomes easier for them to deal with stress that already exists. Of course, as with all ‘sensitive’ workplace issues, the mandate for them being proactive must come from senior management/leaders otherwise the ‘force’ of the initiative may not be strong enough to drive change throughout the organisation.



  4. Work is biggest cause of stress in peoples’ lives

    Hi Jamie

    Here is another study identifying that stress continues to be a big problem within the workplace. It can be caused by many different factors, including managers, so it is vital that not only managers but HR professionals are trained on how to manage stress. This would enable them to identify stress before it becomes a more long-term health or mental health issue resulting in long-term absence. The investment in training managers and HR far outways not.

    The HSE Management Standards are a very good starting point for managers and I wonder if Stress Risk Assessments are being carried out when there are high levels of stress in an organisation. This is all part of the managers’ training and would certainly help to not only reduce stress but prevent it.

    best wishes


    Jessica Smyrl, YSM Solutions

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

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