A new study has warned the UK's workplaces are facing a “stress epidemic”.
The Norwich Union Healthcare's third Health of the Workplace study reveals that almost half of UK employees admit to being stressed, while one in five are suffering depression.
Staff are also working harder than ever – over half (55%) are going into work ill, working longer hours (48%), skipping lunch breaks (37%), or offering to take on more responsibility (33%). That’s left almost half (46%) of workers suffering insomnia, migraines (33%), or anxiety attacks and palpitations (21%).
Now, GPs are warning that stress-related illness will be the most critical occupational health issue of 2009, while others have revealed a worrying trend – almost half of GPs have seen patients increasing alcohol and drug use and 89% expect requests for anti-depressants to dramatically increase. The survey showed that workers turning to drink to relieve stress is the issue that worries HR bosses most.
The annual study, which polled bosses, workers and GPs, also reveals the dilemma facing Britain’s bosses with four in five acknowledging the need for a healthy workforce in challenging times, but almost half believing that cutting health incentives like gym memberships is best for the bottom line. Over three-quarters (86%) of employers said they need workers to be more productive than ever, but 62% describe workplace healthcare investment as a “luxury few businesses can afford in 2009”.
The majority (97%) know there is a direct link between worker health and productivity, and 61% are now calling on the Government to provide more tax incentives on workplace health investment.
Dr Douglas Wright, Head of Clinical Governance at Norwich Union Healthcare, said:
“This is an alarming diagnosis for the future economic health of the country’s businesses and a very clear signal that employers and Government must work together with the UK’s workforce on occupational health.
“Two-thirds of employees told us they will work harder for a company that invests in their health, yet just 1% of British businesses plan to introduce new employee health benefits in 2009.
“There are, however, cost-effective steps for workers and employers – employees by using diet and exercise to protect their wellbeing and, for employers, by utilising stress audits, manager training and Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), which help manage mental wellbeing as well as providing advice on areas such as financial worries, debt and redundancy.
“The Government already offers tax concessions on health screenings and we urge them now to extend this to EAPs.”