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Stress And Sickness Absence – On The Rise?



Prevalence of workplace stress

Stress is increasingly a major fact of life for many employees in the UK  these days, and figures indicate that the prevalence of turning to alcohol as a way to relieve stress and worry is far too high.  Research carried out by Nuffield Health in 2012 indicated that employees generally are working longer days without extra pay and taking fewer holidays due to the economic climate which in turn is leading to increased levels of stress.

The Nuffield study surveyed a sample of 1,500 UK employees and found out that over half (52%) of them felt they were a lot more stressed since the economic downturn had begun.  41% of workers felt ‘a lot more’ pressured at work and about a quarter of those workers admitted that they had been working long hours without overtime pay due to fears regarding the downturn.

Coping mechanisms

The survey also indicated that a quarter of employees were using alcohol as a coping mechanism for the stress they were suffering, as opposed to only 23% who were using more healthy means to relieve stress – such as exercise or meditation.  These figures are a cause for concern in terms of workplace and general wellbeing, and there were also indications that the stress people are experiencing can often be carried over into their spare time – leading to an increase in the amount of weekend work undertaken. It was also found that overall more people were using less of their holiday time allocation.

These facts reinforced the findings of a study undertaken jointly by the University of Nottingham and the University of Ulster whose results indicated that stress was now a growing problem for workers, with it affecting one in four in the UK.  Stress-related absence was also on the rise, with figures showing that it increases as much as 25% during recession whilst the total time of work-related stress rises by more than a third.

Organizational support

It is important for employers to support their staff during difficult periods, especially as regards stress connected to work-related issues.  UK employers are offering more benefits in the form of support such as company health insurance and wellbeing strategies in order to both help their workers and reduce staff turnover.  This gives workers the chance to talk to someone about their problems and is a healthy way to reduce stress.  Wellbeing strategies are in place as another way to help stress in a healthy way through the exercise.