Workplace Stress Costs UK Economy £4billion

UBCUK recently welcomed All Health Matters to its Brentford Business Centre, a leading provider of occupational health services. The company opened a new health clinic at the centre - a fantastic addition to UBC's vibrant business centre.

All Health Matters logo

During a discussion with All Health Matters about the launch of their new clinic, it became immediately clear that one of their chief concerns - and prime areas of support - is that of workplace stress.

Managing Director Gill Monk, who founded All Health Matters in February 2010, raised the alarming statistic that "mental ill health is now more commonplace than back pain in the workplace".

"Traditionally 'back pain', being very difficult for doctors to prove or disprove, was said to be one of the most common causes of sickness absence," said Gill.

"Job roles, when we were very much more of an industrial nation, used to be far more physical than they are today and musculoskeletal disorders were common. Today, we lead much more sedentary lives, but very fast moving ones, and mentally more demanding."

Unstoppable to-do lists

Gill explained that being sedentary doesn't stop at the workplace, as it is very much a lifestyle adjustment - such as driving to work, catching a lift over short distances, and even using remote controls instead of getting up to change the TV channel.

On top of that, technology means we can gain information immediately and therefore work faster - which means pressure is intensifying.

"Emails demand attention. The 'to-do' list is hijacked by other things bouncing into our inboxes. The to-do list grows constantly. Also, many people work in a target-driven system where performance is closely scrutinised."

"Stress is not an illness," she added. "It is a response to a set of circumstances in which we have lost control over the outcome."

Gill explained that workplace stress now accounts for around 160million lost days per year (2012). The CBI, which identified these results, found that the conditions linked to anxiety, stress and depression are the leading cause of long-term absence.

This in itself makes up nearly 30% of all lost working time, with a cost to the UK economy of £4bn.

Coping strategies

This all paints a very concerning picture of the state of Britain's workplaces. But there are solutions.

"Businesses need to train their managers to recognise their own 'stressors' and those of their teams, and introduce coping strategies to combat them," said Gill.

Training is the best way to raise awareness of these issues and to help maintain a healthy workplace. All Health Matters runs a series of workshops that teach managers "how to see things differently", which includes recognising the signals of workplace stress and subsequent "coping strategies".

They also teach managers how to run a healthier workplace, and how to generate employee buy-in.

Workplace stress is a considerable worry for employees, and presents a significant challenge for managers and business owners. But it is encouraging that a growing number of initiatives are now in place to help companies tackle these concerns, for the benefit of their employees' health as well as for the overall wellbeing and harmony of their team.

UBCUK is proud to work alongside All Health Matters at its Brentford Business Centre, and is looking forward to working closely with the team as they continue to offer essential support and health services to businesses in the area.