50 per cent of stress related calls were from people over 40 year olds and 15 per cent of stress related calls were from under 30 year olds

No matter what the size or nature of a business, stress is something most employees and employers will go through at some stage in their career. In 2017, the UK’ s leading EAP provider Health Assured received 14,182 calls from customers related to stress.

50 per cent of the calls seeking counselling support from Health Assured’s counsellors were from people over 40 years old with only 15 per cent coming from people under 30 years old. Research suggests this may be due to under 30 year olds generally being more open minded about mental health and it being less of a taboo subject than older generations.

The busiest month for calls related to stress in 2017 was May; in previous years this has tended to be January however after the domestic terror attacks in Manchester and Westminster. It was impossible for people not to experience an emotional reaction to such awful incidents especially when young people were involved. Post terror attack it is very natural for people to feel stressed and anxious, particularly as the places of the attacks took place in popular areas where many people have been to.

In terms of gender, 63 per cent of stress related calls were from females in comparison to 37 per cent of stress related calls being from males.

In light of these findings Health Assured CEO David Price advises how to manage stress in the workplace:

For many, workplace demands are the usual cause of high stress levels where an employee becomes overwhelmed or overloaded with work, short deadlines and demanding projects. Stress will have a significant detrimental impact on the workplace as its effects lead to unhealthy employees, low productivity, an increase in workplace disputes and higher absenteeism. Proactively taking steps to manage stress will help reduce these effects, and will also help employers meet their legal duty to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of employees.

The first step to managing stress is to develop awareness of the causes of stress and the effects of stress in the workplace. Whilst experiencing some stress is normal, employees who feel over-stressed or are suffering from work-related stress are at risk of becoming unhealthy. Employees themselves can be provided with training or awareness initiatives on how to determine their stress levels, how to manage stress and when to speak to management about this. Managers will require training on how to spot a member of staff who is suffering from stress. Although they are unlikely to become experts, and each individual will differ in how they project stress, usual signs of stress include changes in behaviour, the standard of work or the employee’s attitude towards tasks.

Managers who suspect an employee is suffering from stress need to hold a discussion with the individual themselves. This will help determine whether the individual is experiencing stress, what factors are affecting them e.g. whether this is work-related or personal factors, and how the workplace can help the employee. Without this discussion, the manager can make assumptions which could, in the long run, result in detrimental changes being introduced. Additionally, employees should be actively encouraged to approach their managers to discuss their health. Where a member of staff discloses they are feeling stressed, the same private discussion can be held.

Actively supporting employees in the workplace will help reduce stress and prevent employees from suffering detrimental levels of stress. Where the cause of stress has previously been identified as work-related, small changes to reduce the pressure on the employee will help manage this. This could include, for example, temporarily reducing workloads, providing additional support or reviewing deadlines. Even if stress is being affected by factors outside of work, employers can still provide support to aid employees. This may be through an Employee Assistance Programme, providing training on managing stress and promoting external advice or support services.

Stress, by itself, is not a mental condition that is classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010. It can, however, lead to further medical conditions or physical conditions that can fall within the definition of disability, such as depression, anxiety or heart disease. Proactively talking to employees with stress, and providing workplace support, will help ensure stress is managed before it progresses.

If you are interested in health at work or finding out more about transforming your company culture to include a wellbeing programme you may be interested in our Workplace Wellbeing and Stress forum 2018 held in London on the 15th November. Click here for more details.