The latest 24-7 survey — a research project conducted by the Work Life Balance Centre and the universities of Keele, Coventry and Wolverhampton — found that two thirds of employees have been made ill by work, with 48% of these suffering from depression, and 43% suffering from anxiety or panic attacks.
Eight in ten of those asked have a problem juggling the competing demands of work and home, while the same amount feel that at times they cannot cope with the demands placed upon them.
Women (69.6%) were even more likely to feel this way than men (63%) although both figures have increased in the last 12 months.
Long hours could be one reason for such stress. The survey found that many people work over their contracted hours (one in ten does a minimum of 49 hours a week, while only one in 100 is contracted to do so). Most do so to keep up with their workloads. A third of employees resent these long hours, and more than a quarter miss family and social occasions for work.
On a positive note more than half of workers ensure work does not dominate their lives, feel more fulfilled when busy and enjoyed the challenges of their jobs. Despite the higher stress levels, women generally feel more positive about work than men. Almost three quarters of bosses are sympathetic to time off or changes to work schedules to help deal with family or caring responsibilities.
Julie Hurst, Director of the Work Life Balance Centre says:
"Our relationship with work continues to be a complex one. On the one hand people have reported many positives about enjoying their jobs. At the same time however the levels of depression and anxiety have been increasing. Depression and anxiety have become a silent epidemic in the workplace and yet there is so much that can be done to reduce both problems. I would urge all employers to look carefully at these issues and arrange access to the appropriate forms of help, as it is in the long term interests of the business to support healthy, and ultimately productive, employees. At the most basic level having employees absent through these illnesses costs an organisation far more than it does to provide the proper support to help them get back on their feet and back to work. And that is without even considering the humanitarian case."
Stress has become a problem for employers that cannot be ignored; especially considering the number of high pay out cases there have been in the past few years. For example, in one recent case an employee was awarded £140,000 because of excessive workload resulting from the need to cover for absent colleagues.
As well as the problems of absence and under performance, there is no limit to the compensation that employees can get from a finding of negligence against employers. Employers owe their employees both specific duties under heath and safety legislation and a common law duty to take reasonable care to ensure their health and safety. If an employee can show that they suffered from stress related ill health and his employer could or ought to have foreseen and prevented it, the employer could be found to be negligent.
Recent joint CIPD/HSE research has suggested that a manager’s behaviour can have a major impact on employees’ stress levels affecting the wellbeing of employees and organisational performance. New guidance has been launched to help employers tackle these issues. The new guidance draws on 19 key management behaviours that play a vital role in preventing, identifying, and tackling stress effectively. The behaviours have been used to create a framework enabling line managers to work on the skills required to reduce and prevent stress at work.