Workplace stress is an increasingly significant issue within the UK’s workforce – over half a million workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety last year – affecting employee’s happiness, wellbeing and productivity.
Keen to explore the correlation between the work environment and stress and wellbeing in the workplace, we teamed up with the Stress Management Society to launch our latest nationwide Workplace wellbeing survey of office workers. Released to coincide with International Stress Awareness Week, 5th – 9th November 2018.
In our latest survey, 95% of respondents stated their physical work environment is important for their wellbeing and mental health but half say their current working environment doesn’t have a positive effect on their mental health (51%), wellbeing (49%), mood (47%) and productivity (43%). Furthermore, over a quarter (26%) felt their organisations do nothing to help their employees manage stress in the workplace.
The new survey reveals a stress epidemic amongst the country’s workforce with two-thirds of employees (64%) having ‘poor’ or ‘below average’ mental wellbeing according to the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (SWEMWBS) and over a third (36%) of people saying their workplace stress has been on-going for the past five years.
The result of poor mental health is that half of all workers (48%) say that they have taken a day off work for their mental health. In total, 12.5 million working days were lost in 2017 due to stress (HSE 2016/2017) at a cost of £6.5 billion in 2017 to the UK economy. Middle aged workers (35 - 50) are particularly likely to have taken time off due to poor mental health, with 53% saying they have compared with 43% of younger workers (18-34).
The survey also found that almost half (46%) of respondents stated a lack of time to focus on wellbeing and exercise was a leading cause of stress in their workplace – only behind increasing workloads (56%). Understandably, employees are calling for businesses to take a radical new approach to help them tackle stress; half of workers are calling for the introduction of a yoga and meditation room (49%) and exercise facilities (50%) in the office followed by heating and ventilation (44%), quiet working areas (42%) and breakout spaces (38%).
“This new research is an urgent wake up call for employers to start assessing what their people and business really need to be healthy and productive, and start addressing the concerning levels of stress amongst the nation’s employees. Workers are appealing to employers to help them to build time into their working day to focus on exercise and wellbeing and to provide the right office environment to facilitate this. Employers must listen, stand back and introduce the necessary, bold, new changes that will transform the culture and mental health of their workforce.”
“I am a massive believer that going to work should make you healthy. Most organisations want to reduce or mitigate the amount of stress or poor wellbeing they cause their employees – how about turning that on its head so going to work boosts your wellbeing and is good for your mental, physical and emotional state. As the pressures and demands of life just keep increasing and the pace of life continues to accelerate more and more people are finding themselves overwhelmed. The consequences of this are far reaching, both to the individual, the team and the organization. It is clear that if we want our organisations to succeed and thrive we need to focus on our most important asset – our people. Aligning people, culture, wellbeing strategy with the physical environment is critical to the success of this. There is no one size fits all solution – we want to see more organisations offering different and innovative ways to give people the culture and physical space to maximise their wellbeing.”
 Health and Safety Executive – 2016/17 – 526,000 workers suffered work-related stress, depression or anxiety.
 The Short Warwick & Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (SWEMWBS) is calculated through seven questions about an individual’s emotions, quality of interpersonal relationships and psychological functioning over the past two weeks. A score of 24 or below is ‘below average’, 64% of survey respondents had a score of 24 or below, 41% had a rating of ‘poor’.
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