The number of stress-related absences in financial services in the past few years had risen to their highest level since the 2008 financial crisis, according to new analysis of Health & Safety Executive figures.
The average number of working days lost per financial services worker each year due to stress increased to 0.54 days between 2016/17 and 2018/19, up 8% from 0.5 between 2013/14 and 2015/16.
And, as law firm Fox & Partners warned, stress-related absence could increase this year as a result of the pressures and resource constraints being placed on employees due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The law firm, which undertook the analysis of HSE figures, suggested the increase in stress-related absence could have resulted from heavy workloads, high-pressure decision-making, working with “challenging” people and the “always on” culture that has arisen from greater use of technology.
Regulatory changes could have also contributed to increased stress levels, especially for those in senior positions, who can now sometimes face severe penalties for failures at their firms.
“Rising stress levels amongst City workers suggests the industry is still struggling to tackle its intense working culture,” said Ivor Adair, a partner at Fox & Partners.
“Mental health has risen up the agenda in the City. Despite growing awareness of the negative side-effects heavy workloads can have on employees’ mental wellbeing, the problem has got worse. The enormous uncertainties caused by Covid-19 situation might make 2020 the most stressful year in a generation. With so many working remotely in a state of anxiety, staff wellbeing ought to be part of any business survival plan.”
The law firm suggested that organisations developed a wellbeing “action plan” that encouraged people to switch off when their working day ends; informed staff about mental health and wellbeing resources and support in place; ensured that poor mental health is “destigmatised” from the top; and considered introducing mental health first aiders.