1.5m days lost to stress annually at a cost of £1.24bn

£1.24bn
is the cost in lost hours caused by spiralling workplace stress that is
crippling UK business, hampering productivity and preventing employers from
retaining and attracting staff.

Exclusive
research by Personnel Today and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE)
has revealed the extent of the UK’s stress overload – an estimated 1,554,256
working days lost to stress every year. Worryingly, it is a problem that is
getting worse, with more than half of UK organisations reporting an increase in
workplace stress.

A
massive 83 per cent of HR professionals say they believe stress is holding back
the UK’s efforts to close the productivity gap, while 60 per cent claim it is
adding to staff retention problems.

The
Stress in the UK Workplace survey, based on responses from almost 700
senior HR practitioners, suggests that stress-related illness now accounts for
around 11 per cent of all sickness absence.

HR
has a fundamental role to play in combating stress after nearly half the
employers questioned said the culture in their business was causing stress.

The
main causes cited by respondents are all basic management failures that must be
addressed by the HR function.

These
problems include unreasonable demands on staff, a lack of support and training,
poor relationships at work, and poorly defined job roles.

Meanwhile,
a separate survey of UK employees, based on questions developed by Personnel
Today
, highlights the pressures of the modern workplace with 35 per cent of
staff admitting they felt unsupported by managers.

The
National Employee Benchmarks Survey, by BMRB, questioned almost 2,000
employees and found that more than half the UK workforce feels under pressure
to work long hours. The issue of stress has reached such proportions that 42
per cent worry about their job outside working hours, 40 per cent feel they
cannot report concerns over excessive pressure and 19 per cent dread going into
work.

A
quarter of the workforce admitted that worrying about work was affecting their
sleep while just over a third of all employees in the UK said they felt
overwhelmed by their workload.

Mike
Emmott, employee relations adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development,
said HR must rise to the challenge of dealing with stress.

“Tackling
stress is about good management. Line managers have to be competent and aware
and stress is now a major HR issue,” he said. “It’s a growing problem that’s
linked to bullying, long hours, work load and management support.”

The
results of the Stress in the UK Workplace survey will now be used by the
HSE to fine-tune its Stress Management Standards, which are due to be phased in
next year.

Elizabeth
Gyngell, head of the better working environment division at the HSE, said the
research highlighted the need for greater support and guidance for employers.
“This Personnel Today survey has enabled us to find out directly from
people at work, in particular HR managers, what will help them to tackle
work-related stress.

“It
confirms what we have been hearing from employers – they would welcome help
with identifying practical interventions to manage the sources of stress.”

By Ross Wigham

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