Economic conditions affecting workplace stress, says research

The stresses of the economic downturn and job and pay insecurity are creating a growing climate of “desk rage”, according to health insurer PruHealth and wellness programme provider Vitality.

The survey found that 7.3% of workers polled have witnessed a physical assault in the workplace and that nearly 3% admitted to having been physically aggressive to a colleague themselves.

More than one in three believe that in­cidents of desk rage have worsened since the start of the recession.

Just as worrying, the poll has argued that at least one British worker in four is displaying symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety, including:

  • feeling worried or anxious (47%);
  • being irritable or angry (46%);
  • disturbed sleep (33%);
  • lack of energy and feeling tired or lethargic (32%);
  • feeling hopeless or helpless (27%);
  • not feeling good about themselves (27%);
  • lack of motivation and sense of purpose (27%);
  • increased tendency to think negatively (26%); and
  • feeling down for more days than most (23%).

    Dr Dawn Richards, PruHealth head of clinical services, said: “Early intervention and putting the right coping mechanisms in place are very important to nip symptoms in the bud, which is why awareness among individuals and employers alike is critical.”

    A separate study has calculated that employees who cannot get comfortable at their desks could be costing their employer, on average, £3,279 per person per year in lost revenue through time off sick and reduced productivity, or the equivalent of £52 billion per year to the UK economy.

    Seven out of 10 of the 1,000 employees polled reported spending an average of 51 minutes per day re-arranging their workspace and fidgeting to get comfortable.

    A similar proportion complained of having suffered from ailments during the past three years as a direct result of using computers for work.

    Employees reported suffering from: headaches (32%); tense shoulders (29%); neck ache (28%); eye problems (27%); and sore wrists and arms (25%), all of which affected their ability to work productively.

    The research was commissioned by Fellowes, a company that manufactures and sells office equipment.

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