Billion Pound Bill for Stress in the Office
Soaring stress levels could be costing UK businesses more than a billion pounds in employee absence, according to new research.
One in three almost permanently stressed
So how widespread is the problem? According to the survey of 1,500 workers by Business Environment Group, one in five workers has taken time off because of stress.
And while most of us will experience raised stress levels while weΓÇÖre working on a particularly challenging project, the survey revealed that for nearly a third (29%) of workers, feeling stressed is an almost permanent state of mind.
The scary side of office stress
While taking time off is one way desperate employees deal with extreme stress, the survey also revealed the impact it can have on in-office behaviour.
8% of those surveyed admitted to shouting at a co-worker because they were feeling stressed, while 2% have sworn in front of either co-workers or clients when things get too much.
Most alarming of all is the 3.4% who have vented their feelings by throwing something across the room.
Coping with stress
But those are extreme examples. Most workers adopt more rational methods for coping with workplace stress. Almost half (44%) have taken a walk in the fresh air to clear their head, while a third (33%) call family and friends for a chat. 28% wait until theyΓÇÖre away from colleagues to have a rant in private.
Employers should perhaps be concerned about the 3% who use smoking as a way to release stress; the associated health problems mean that stress is also the indirect cause of yet more employee absences. In a similar way, they might also want to be watchful of the 6% who turn to alcohol out of hours to cope.
Cultivating a better office environment
So what can employers do to address the problem? David Saul, managing director at Business Environment, believes that it is down to employers to create the kind of office environment which minimises stress.
ΓÇ£I believe all employers have a responsibility to challenge the status quo and cultivate an office environment where employees feel supported by senior staff and able to voice concerns before stress levels go through the roof. Of course, there will be times when employees are required to go above and beyond, but this should never be at the detriment to their health.ΓÇ¥
As David points out, finding that balance between challenging employees and overstretching them can be tricky. But with billions of pounds at stake, can businesses afford not to get it right?
How do you cope with stress in the office? Are you one of the 29% of permanently stressed employees?