National Stress Awareness Day 2019

Today (06/11) is National Stress Awareness Day. Has work stressed you out this year? If it hasn’t, you’re in the minority. Two-thirds of employees have felt stressed or suffered anxiety as a result of work in the past 12 months, rising to 76% for under 35’s.

60% of employees surveyed by ACAS cited high workload as a cause of their work-related stress or anxiety, while 42% cited the way they were managed. It’s no surprise then that only 8% of those polled said their employer was ‘very good’ at preventing their staff from feeling stressed or anxious about their work.

Stress is a big problem in British workplaces. 602,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2018/19 according to the HSE, adding up to a total of 12.8 million working days lost; 54% of all working days lost to ill health. Stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related illness.

While employers are strictly obliged to prevent physical injury and disease resulting from work, there’s no such legal obligation regarding mental health. Many employees up and down the country find themselves under intense pressure due to high workloads and long working hours, mismanagement, and workplace bullying.

How stress affects our health

The impact of high levels of stress on employees is not just emotional and psychological. Chronic stress has been demonstrated to weaken the immune system and increase incidences of heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and unhealthy weight gain. It can also cause insomnia which can have a significant adverse effect on job performance as well as causing a host of health problems. Additionally, many employees turn to alcohol and ‘stress eating’ to try and cope (25% and 14% respectively). In short, chronic stress can lead to the development of physical health problems which have an additional toll on the workforce.

The role of managers

While there are many measures organisations could take to tackle workplace stress, management is clearly one area to focus on. 72% of employees surveyed by ACAS thought it was a manager’s role to recognise and take steps to mitigate stress and anxiety at work, but only 43% would actually talk to their manager. This indicates a significant trust gap. Managers may also lack the necessary understanding, awareness and sensitivity to identify signs of stress in their employees, take steps to tackle the causes of stress, or help employees cope with stress.

Mental health first aid training

One effective way to upskill managers when it comes recognising and tackling stress and other mental health issues at work is mental health first aid training. This can train managers and other employees to spot the symptoms of poor mental health, teach them how to approach this sensitive topic with colleagues and empower them to give the right advice.

Safety First Aid Training run both full mental health first aider courses and single-day mental health first aid champion courses in London. You can either book places online on our scheduled courses in North West London or arrange on-site training on your premises – get in touch with us here.

To learn more about mental health in the workplace, take a look at our other blog articles.