Stress ‘a taboo word’ for worried UK workers

Stress a taboo word for worried UK workers

Admitting to stress at work is a bad idea as it might result in getting the sack.

That, according to new research, is the fear of 41 per cent of UK employees worried by the threat of redundancy during these economically-troubled times.

The survey, conducted by mental health charity Mind, has found that 41 per cent of UK workers are also currently ‘stressed’ or ‘very stressed’ by their jobs. 

This means that work stress is the biggest cause of stress in British workers’ lives - even relationship, health and financial issues don’t cause as many sleepless nights. 

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Asking for help is the first step in the road to recovery. Yet, the Mind survey found that one in five fears that mentioning stress would be seen as a sign of weakness and put them first in line for redundancy.

Seven out of every ten people stated that their employer would not help them cope with stress.

Reasons to be stressful

The Mind survey also found:

•Two in three workers have been exposed to more pressure by management since the recession began

•28% are stressed by the prospect of redundancy (41% in the public sector threatened by severe government spending cuts)

•Almost half (48%) are scared to take time off sick

•46% believe that time off for stress is perceived as an excuse for something else

•One in four say they would be deemed less capable than others if they admit to feeling stress

‘Elephant in the room’

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, is dismayed by bosses who “fail to recognise that everyone has a limit”.

He said: “At the moment stress exists as a costly and unaddressed elephant in the room. Making sure that staff take proper breaks or giving them the chance to talk about work pressures can make a big difference without costing employers the earth.”

‘Stress is not a weakness’

Workers in the public sector have had reason to feel particularly stressed recently; only last week it was announced that closures of Jobcentre Plus offices could affect as many 2,400 staff.

PCS, the union representing public sector workers, emphasises that “stress is not a personal weakness, nor is it ‘your fault’”, adding: “employers have a legal duty to protect your health and safety at work.”

Speaking to a union representative, a line manager, a training officer or your GP, PCS advises, can help you manage your stress.

The union also urges you to talk to your colleagues as “it may not just be you experiencing pressure from the same causes”. 

Helping your stress levels could help your colleagues’ stress levels.

The true cost of stress

It could be that financial considerations result in more bosses taking care of their staff’s well-being. Mind points out that every year British businesses lose £1,035 per employee because of sickness absence and lost productivity.

The charity believes that a third of these costs could be recovered if adequate support was given to manage workers’ stress levels.