Why workers are feeling more stressed than ever

Mental health and stress related issues are finally gaining some more appreciation and awareness in the UK

It is estimated that approximately 3 in 5 UK office workers consider their workloads to be excessive, often with daily struggles to meet deadlines.

The pressure to meet personal or professional expectations has developed a working culture that is proving to be particularly unhealthy. This kind of working environment often damages interpersonal and professional working relationships with colleagues at all levels, with a tunnel vision on individual workloads without much time (or care) for the value of other team members’ specialisms.

If employers have not modernised and managed effective process improvements or provided their staff with the tools to assist their productivity, many workers feel obliged to work well beyond their standard contracted hours, further affecting work/life balance and stress levels.

With the cost of living, particularly in large cities, continuing to rise, an increasing number of workers can feel trapped in difficult working environments, as they simply cannot afford to take the financial hit of switching careers or reducing their levels of responsibility.

Employers trying to overcome stress levels in their teams by making false promises of future promotion opportunities, or not seriously considering requests for flexible working arrangements, may simply exacerbate the frustration of their staff.

Not all employers are burying their head in the sand, however. Numerous reports have been published linking improved support of staff exposed to stressful working environments with vastly improved productivity and retention. Staff working for such forward-thinking companies have seen some novel ideas introduced in the office.

Daily deliveries of fruit baskets have replaced vending machines filled with unhealthy convenience food. Yoga, gym and mindfulness classes are being supplemented or even made compulsory. Cycle to work initiatives and public transport season ticket loan schemes are encouraging a more active commute. Presenteeism is out, and flexible working arrangements or remote/home-based working are in. Offering the bare minimum holiday allowance is now seen as archaic.

Many senior leadership teams have asked for the input of workers to find out what methods would be most effective in reducing stress. Collaborative project teams can prove to be an effective intermediary to hear the issues faced and consider suggestions of stress relieving initiatives that work best for everyone.

In today’s candidate-led market, particularly in skills-shortage industries, businesses that are not implementing health and wellbeing programmes to support their staff are likely to see some problems with retention, alongside their usual issues with sickness-related absence. Workers that have experienced a negative support structure in the past will now actively seek a wider package of benefits from a new employer.

Simply offering the highest salary may no longer be enough. With the cost of mental health support also being a huge demand on the NHS, it is expected that the government will soon encourage further incentives, or even make more effective health and wellbeing programmes compulsory in modern day offices.

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