7 surprising facts about workplace stress (and how to avoid it)
April is known for lots of things: spring showers, April Fool’s Day, the month the Titanic sank… But it’s also Stress Awareness Month. It’s important to remember that, while April is often seen as a window into summer and brighter days, we’re all still susceptible to stress, worries and struggles.
With work being the biggest cause of stress for many people, we wanted to share some surprising facts about job-related struggles. Ultimately, stressed employees are likely to be unhappy, unproductive employees, so it’s in employers’ best interests to do what we can to curb this.
Read on to find out what might be putting your employees under pressure and follow our tips to turn things around – not just in April, but all year round.
1. Half of UK workers feel stressed
Yep, according to a study by YouGov, 50% of us feel stressed at work. That’s a pretty big number. And it’s not only impacting people during the 9 to 5. Workplace stress has the potential to seep into our lives outside of work, too, creating unnecessary tension in our relationships, disturbing our sleep and damaging our mental health.
Not only that, but…
2. 60-80% of workplace accidents are the result of stress-induced issues
You might be surprised to learn that stress at work not only affects employee health, but also workplace safety.
This is because of the ways stress manifests itself. For example, it can make you tired, distracted and dizzy. When you’re tired, you’re probably not giving 100% of yourself, and this is when accidents happen. It’s one of the reasons doctors advise you not to drive or operate machinery while taking certain medication, because it can make you drowsy.
One of the ways you can prevent this in the office is by offering flexible working hours. Not confining people to the same working hours allows employees to work when it suits them, and when they’ll feel confident getting their best work done. So if someone’s working late one night, they can start a little later the following day, giving them time to rest and recover.
If your workplace involves operating machinery or heavy equipment, such as helping people move house, ask that they answer a few questions on how they’re feeling before they start work. This can help to remind people not to enter into anything that might be dangerous if they’re not feeling well. And don’t forget to use the 4 types of workplace safety signs to keep your staff clued up.
3. 42% of workers report that yelling and other verbal abuse is common
Another cause of job stress is the way people are spoken to at work, with nearly half of employees regularly experiencing verbal abuse. This can range from name calling, gaslighting and taunting, to the use of inappropriate language and threats.
This is more common in some industries than others. For example, a BBC report into the London Fire Brigade found instances of abuse and bullying at all levels, creating a toxic culture for everyone involved. Similarly, those who work in customer-facing roles (like GP receptionists and train guards) are also more likely to experience verbal abuse at work.
The first step to reducing this kind of abuse is fostering an environment of respect and calmness from the outset. That starts with a robust hiring process to make sure you’re employing the right kind of people, and making your stance on abuse clear from the get-go.
It’s a good idea to have a reporting system in place so that anyone experiencing this knows who to contact and feels confident that the situation will be dealt with. You might want to include this in an anti-abuse handbook, make it available to all employees and ask that they sign a document acknowledging that they have received, read, and will follow the policy.
4. For 39% of workers, the biggest cause of stress is workload
Stress can be triggered by many things, but for most people, it’s their workload. Whether that’s having too many projects on their plate or working to unrealistic deadlines, juggling an intense workload can be exhausting.
To prevent your team’s workload from becoming overwhelming, make sure you’re having regular catch-ups to check that they’re coping. Encourage them to be honest with you as you have the power to make changes if they’re struggling. If team members are working on too many projects, prioritise these and postpone any that aren’t urgent.
And if an employee leaves, try to replace them so someone else isn’t burdened with their work. The report into the London Fire Brigade uncovered that 40% of people said they were frustrated in their job with staff shortages, so it’s important that employers make an effort to hire enough staff to handle the workload.
5. 52% of employees feel burned out
Thanks to a rise in remote working – which can make it hard to draw a line between professional and personal life – and a fear of redundancy in many companies, employees are becoming burnt out. A lack of recognition, reward and control can also lead to prolonged stress among some workers, particularly if they’re working overtime in the hope of being promoted.
One of the ways you can reduce the likelihood of burnout among employees is to prevent a culture of overworking. That means not glamorising working ridiculously long hours or weekends, for example, by encouraging employees to turn off Slack notifications on their phone. Senior management should lead by example here and be open about their own attempts to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
It’s also a good idea to provide mental health resources for employees to fall back on if they’re struggling, as some people are more susceptible to stress than others. We recommend investing in Oliva, which offers mental health and emotional growth support to companies. (It should come as no surprise that they also offer 24/7 support to their own employees!).
6. 46% eat too much or unhealthily due to stress
Another way stress can manifest itself is in appetite. One study found that nearly half of stressed employees find themselves overeating or eating unhealthy foods. This is because when you feel stressed, your body sends out cortisol (the stress hormone). This can make you crave sugary, salty or fatty foods as fuel to fight the stress you’re experiencing.
While taking steps to prevent stress in the workplace is a great place to start, you might also want to consider addressing the effects of stress, like hunger. If your employees are office-based, you could promote healthy eating by buying fruit for the office, encouraging employees to drink plenty of water and ordering healthy choices if you offer catered lunches.
Make sure any snacks you provide are healthy so that staff have a nutritious option to turn to if they get peckish at work. Or why not organise a weekly ‘potluck lunch’, where employees are encouraged to make healthy meals and bring them in for everyone to share?
7. 13 million days are lost each year because of work-related stress, anxiety and depression
With stress taking its toll on endless areas of our lives, this inevitably results in staff taking sick days in order to cope. So it’s easy to see how every year, UK employers lose more than 13 million working days due to stress. This has a knock-on effect on business growth and profitability, as fewer people are getting the work done.
A great way to minimise absenteeism is to spot the signs before it’s too late. There are plenty of training courses out there to help managers identify signs of stress in employees (like irritability and difficulty concentrating) and provide them with helpful resources or emotional support. The earlier you take action, the more likely you are to rectify the situation and make the necessary changes.
Now you know more about what’s causing your workforce to be stressed out – and the potential consequences – you can take the right steps to rectify the situation. Whether that’s by offering a health and wellbeing allowance, in-house counselling or emphasising the importance of a work-life balance, find out what works for your business. We’ve pulled together a list of useful links and resources to help you manage stress and burnout at work, so you can help your employees to stay happy and motivated.