Britain's bosses need to relieve the pressure on their workers if a stress epidemic is to be avoided, experts have claimed.
Nattasha Freeman, the President of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), says it is critical that employers help their staff cope with the demands of work during these troubled economic times:
“Workers are seeing demands on them in the workplace being increased while all the time fearing for their jobs. They’re also seeing their salaries being squeezed while the cost of living is still on the increase. This is not a healthy situation.
“A recent survey carried out by You Gov for IOSH found that 44% of workers felt more pressured in the workplace as a result of the economic downturn, with two-thirds of them saying job insecurity was their biggest concern. Another survey found that over 13% found their work very or extremely stressful.
“If people suffer work-related stress, it’s terrible for them – it can often leave them out of work for a long time. Being out of work is not good for your health, so we need to encourage employers to do more to prevent stress from striking in the first place. Men, particularly, need to be encouraged to make better use of medical advice and health improvement services to help keep them healthy.”
Freeman pointed out that pressure itself was not always a bad thing:
“We do need pressure to perform. It’s when the pressure becomes too much that it can be dangerous. If we feel we cannot cope with what is being asked of us, that’s when it becomes a problem. Other factors, such as relationships with work colleagues, the level of support the person gets from their employer, organisational change, and, of course, personal issues brought in from home, can also contribute to a person suffering work-related stress.”
In Britain, 442,000 people believe that work-related stress is making them ill. Last year, work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for about 13.5 million lost working days. People working in public administration and defence, education, health, social work and financial intermediation are most likely to suffer from work-related stress.
“The workplace has a key role to play in helping people stay healthy. Many common health conditions can be managed effectively in the workplace – people don’t always need to be signed off on the sick. Employers have a key role to play, working alongside GPs, HR and health and safety professionals, in helping members of staff with health conditions to manage their problems.