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Work related stress is the number one reason for sick days in the UK

View profile for Pauline Smith
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Spotting the signs and causes of stress in the workplace

Did you know that in the last year almost 18 million working days were lost as a result of mental health issues such as depression, stress and anxiety? In fact, work related stress is the number one reason given for sick days in the UK. That’s quite a shocking statistic isn’t it?  However, what isn’t particularly surprising is that work place mental health issues have dramatically increased since the start of the covid pandemic, with many home workers feeling unsupported, and some employees having to “double up” on their role if their colleagues are absent from work due to isolating or being ill.

We have come a long way from the days when someone with work related stress would be told to pull themselves together and thankfully employers are far more aware of their duties to protect their employees from this type of anxiety and worry. In fact, employees are now protected by law in relation to suffering from stress at work, and employers have a duty of care to ensure that all their workers are protected, and supported. 

If a company has five employees or less, then they do not need to have any formal written risk assessment in place regarding protecting their workers from stress at work, however, it would be sensible to have some policy in place, in order to record any incidents raised.

The more employees a company has, the greater the need to formalise risk assessments and policies in respect of this particular issue.  For example, managers need to be fully conversant with identifying what work related stress is and what can cause it. Regular meetings with staff and offering assistance is a good way to identify any issues along with offering training and ensuring that staff know what is expected of them in terms of their responsibilities. An employee should be able to give feedback about any stress factors in their job, and to ask for assistance, and once an issue has been identified then a plan should be put in place to allow the affected person to function in their role with support and help. 

The Health and Safety Executive launched a campaign called Working Minds in November 2021 specifically in relation to this issue. This is useful for both employers and the people who work for them. You can visit their website for more information, and also visit the numerous mental health charities, such as Mind that offer online advice, or tools to help people identify if they have a work related stress problem, and how to cope with this.

Whilst it is rare to have an entirely stress free occupation, dependent upon what role you have, you should be able to ask for support from your employers if you are feeling unable to cope in your workplace environment, and thankfully, the stigma associated with stress in the workplace is a thing of the past.