Stress at work: The biggest health threat to British employees

An overwhelming 97% of senior HR professionals believe stress at work is the biggest threat to the future health of the UK workforce, exclusive research has revealed.

Virtually all of the 600 senior HR executives surveyed by Personnel Today and healthcare provider HSA think that lack of stress management is the number one threat to the future health of their employees.

Working longer hours and not taking enough holiday – both seen as key causes of stress at work – were other big contributors to poor wellbeing, the Who’s Looking After Our Health? study found. More than a third (36%) of employers predicted that the health of UK workers would decline in the next five to 10 years.

Sickness absence costs the UK about £12bn a year, according to Health and Safety Executive figures. Work-related stress accounts for almost a third of that at an estimated £3.7bn a year.

Ben Willmott, employee relations adviser for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said employers need to identify the root causes of stress. He called on the government to address the dire skills shortage in occupational health to tackle the problem.

“There is a massive lack of occupational health professionals in the UK. There simply aren’t enough to go around,” he said.

Suzanne Clarkson, head of corporate marketing at HSA, said employers needed to put in more provisions for dealing with stress at work. “Employers must do more to encourage employees to look after their health. The message needs to be relayed more strongly,” she said.

A spokeswoman from the Department of Health said that the government’s health, work and wellbeing strategy, launched last year, was making an important contribution to reducing work related stress.

Below you can find useful information on stress at work, its effects and ways of reducing work-related stress.

Stress-related stories from Personnel Today

6 September 2006 Ford HR boss drives down sickness absence by 83% 

5 September 2006 Stress busters

29 August 2006 Met police managers to get stress awareness toolkit

8 August 2006 Hassled women behave badly

4 August 2006 Public sector must tackle the causes of absence

3 August 2006 Occupational ill health costing UK economy about 28 million working days a year

25 July 2006 HR professional at Intel receives £114,000 for stress at work

18 July 2006 Make staff wellbeing a priority

4 July 2006 Stress needs long-term solution not short-term fix

3 July 2006 Stressed-out staff set to get therapy

1 July 2006 Union claims stressed Royal Mail managers are at ‘breaking point’

30 June 2006 Stressed British staff turn to drink

13 June 2006 Research links workplace stress to high blood pressure

18 May 2006 Absence levels fall but stress gets grip

18 May 2006 Health and Safety Executive’s survey finds one in five staff concerned about work-related stress

Stress-related news from the UK media

Plans to boost role of women in the workplace

Healthy lifestyle choices when travelling on business

Stress-related news from the world media

Mental health makes its mark in the profit and loss columns 

Live to work? Not for long 

Leader stresses happiness

Workouts At Work: Employers find wellness programs a good fit for the bottom line

Lunch Break Yoga Helps Ease Work Stress

Ten simple stress relievers

  1. Stretch
  2. Use scent to improve your mood
  3. De-clutter
  4. Change your habits
  5. Think positive
  6. Keep a diary
  7. Talk
  8. Learn how to relax
  9. Exercise regularly
  10. Plan breaks in your day



Stress help organisations

Health and Safety Executive 

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

Department of Health


Stress-related websites a website devoted to helping you beat stress at work and at home.

BUPA Psychological Services, one of Europe’s leading providers of counselling services and Employee Assistance Programmes.

Employers for Worklife Balance, an organisation aiming to help businesses to implement and continuously improve sustainable work-life strategies.

Validium, an international provider of organisational support services including: Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP), post-trauma and critical incident support, ‘return to work’ programmes, stress management.



Research: Stress in the UK Workplace report available from Personnel Today Management Resources, price £25.

Working together to reduce stress at work – A guide for employees

Cardinus – Managing Stress at Work – an online course

If you have found this information useful please link to this page. Email Tim Haigh if you have any more resources that can help employers manage employees who are stressed.

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