More than half of UK workers say they wouldn’t work if it wasn’t for the money. Although that sounds obvious – most of us work because we need the money – the figure of 60% who would opt out of having a job is higher than any comparable workforce in the world.
The findings from a study by Randstad, a provider of workforce insights, back up another study that revealed almost half (46%) of all employees feel more stressed at work than they did a year ago.
So if you’ve been feeling more stressed out with work than usual lately, you’re not alone.
What causes work-related stress?
The Health & Safety Executive, the government agency responsible for workplace health, has outlined six main issues that can cause work-related stress:
- Demands — When the demands of the job are too much, this can lead to stress and burnout.
- Control — If workers feel that they’re not in control of the way they work this can be a cause of stress.
- Support — Employees will be stressed if they don’t get enough support to carry out their jobs effectively.
- Relationships — Difficulties with working relationships can cause stress.
- Role — Cofusion over roles and responsibilities can be a big cause of stress.
- Change — If an employer implements change without engaging with employees, this can be very stressful, especially if job security is questioned.
How stress is affecting the UK workforce
Work-related stress is putting a huge strain on UK employees, while stress-related illnesses are putting more of a strain on employers and health services than ever before.
The findings of a study from Specialists4Protection.co.uk, a life insurance and protection advisory firm, revealed just how work-related stress is affecting UK employees:
- Almost 1-in5 (17%) employees feel their work stress levels are ‘much higher’ than they were 12 months ago. Just under that figure (16%) of people in work claim to have taken medical advice to help them cope with work-related stress, while just over 1-in-10 (13%) are on medication partly because of this.
- Over half (55%) of those suffering from work-related stress say it has had a negative affect on their sleep, while 1-in-5 (19%) claim it’s contributed towards a decline in their relationship with their partner.
- 4-in-10 (40%) say work-related stress means they are not eating properly, while the same number (42%) are doing less exercise because of it.
Why we’re feeling more stressed at work
So why are we feeling more stressed at work? The study also revealed the following:
- Having more work piled on them appears to be a key factor, with over half (57%) citing this as the main reason they feel more stressed.
- Just over a quarter (26%) said it’s because the organisation they work for is under a greater financial strain, while the same figure (26%) said it was because their line manager isn’t up to the job. A quarter (25%) put it down to working longer hours.
- In the first three-quarters of 2016, just under half (45%) of those who feel more stressed at work than they did a year ago have taken at least two extra days off work sick because of this.
Why are UK workers less engaged?
So we’re feeling more stressed, but why are we also feeling less engaged? Let’s get back to the Randstad study.
27,250 workers from around the world were polled about their workplace culture and job satisfaction. But where nearly two-thirds (60%) of UK workers said they’d pack it all in tomorrow if they never needed the money, the international average was less than half (47%).
And it seems UK workers are much less engaged and motivated to work compared to those in Switzerland (38%), Austria (37%) and Romania (36%).
Reasons for this disengagement could come from macro-level issues – the UK isn’t currently a great place to live and this can have an impact on everyone’s mental health. And if your mental health isn’t in good shape, then going to work is often the last thing you want to do.
The pandemic may also have had an effect, as we’re more reluctant to go back to the collective work experience, preferring instead to work from home.
This could suggest that employers need to work on workplace culture to try and make going to work a more appealing option than staying at home. This is where recruitment is key, as you need to make the workplace an inspiring environment with people who both complement and challenge each other (in a positive way).
And then there are the wages. If people are struggling to make ends meet, then this causes unimaginable stress. This can lead to them feeling burned out (especially if they take on a second or third job) and disconnected from work.
It will also help if you can offer some ways to beat work-related stress.
How to beat work-related stress
As a business owner or manager, you need to work out if your employees are feeling stressed and then get to the root causes if they are. This could mean carrying out regular one-to-one interviews with staff or even anonymous surveys to gauge feelings. It’s really important to give employees an outlet to air their concerns.
It’s also important to give employees a way to get help if they are feeling stressed. This could be via the one-to-one system so long as you put issues right as soon as possible or via an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This will offer independent and confidential mental health support for employees, experiencing mental health issues, whether that’s stress, depression or anxiety.
And then you need to make the workplace as positive a place to work as possible. This could be done by offering flexible working and employee incentives and recognition. These measures can help to increase productivity support employee mental wellbeing, and cut voluntary staff churn.
Specialists4Protection.co.uk targets SMEs with between 50 and 200 employees to help them ensure their staff has adequate life, critical illness and health insurance. It is also launching a new service that offers senior executives of these companies a personalised health and wellbeing service, including a trained fitness instructor and nutrition coach individually reviewing senior managers to make personalised recommendations in these areas. For more information call 01243 219190, or visit the company website at specialists4protection.co.uk.
And for tips on how to make the workplace a less stressful place for employees and managers alike, read Why your business has to tackle mental health head on.
How a conference call can help to beat work-related stress
Offering flexible working and the chance to work from home can improve employees’ work/life balance and reduce stress. Having a reliable and cost-effective conference call provider is key to making sure employees can work at home as well as they work in the office.
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