80 percent of senior executives say the workplace is more stressful than five years ago, according to research from Russam GMS. Three-quarters blame mobile technology for creating a more stressful environment.

The research finds that 60 percent of respondents say their employer expects them to answer emails outside of work hours. A fifth of respondents also say that ‘switching off from work at home’ is their biggest challenge in terms of looking after their health.

Other contributors to stress included more demanding financial targets, the pressure to be on call 24/7 and email which ‘makes things relentless’.

Ian Joseph, managing director, Russam GMS comments:

“A 24/7 working culture and increased use of mobile technology has made it difficult for people to switch off and is contributing to stress in the workplace. Stress is one of the leading causes of health problems and absence in the workplace so it’s surprising that organisations are doing so little to recognise it or offer help to deal with it. Senior executives today are expected not only to have business skills, drive and ambition, they also need to be fit and resilient in order to cope with today’s demanding economic environment. Companies that are failing to support and encourage their staff to be healthier and tackle stress are storing up problems for the future.”

More than 80 percent of senior executives said their company has no procedures in place for recognising stress in the workplace. However, 95 percent said they would recognise if one of their colleagues were stressed.

Less than 15 percent of companies offer briefings to staff about stress in the workplace, stress counselling or mentoring programmes.

Failing to look after the health and wellbeing of employees has been shown to contribute to stress. Stress is the number one reason for long-term sick leave according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), with most businesses reporting a rise in staff stress levels.

According to HSE, in 2013/24, 11.3 million working days were lost due to stress, depression and anxiety. This is an average of 23 days per case and the Centre for Economics and Business Research suggests the cost of work related stress to the economy is £6.5bn.

70 percent of respondents said they would find a company more desirable as an employer if they offered more health benefits. Almost a quarter said they would prefer health and wellbeing benefits to a pay rise.

However, many British workplaces are failing to consider basic health benefits with a quarter of companies offering no benefits at all. Almost two-thirds (65%) don’t encourage employees to take regular breaks.

The top health benefits employees would like are measures to encourage cycling, running or walking to work, mindfulness sessions, fitness classes at work, meditation and yoga sessions, plus more health advice available on the intranet.

Ian Joseph adds: “Putting benefits in place to help employees be healthier and less stressed is crucial. These don’t have to be complicated or expensive. Initiatives such as having fruit in meetings, encouraging people to take regular breaks from their desk and allowing them time to visit the gym can contribute to people’s good health and support their well-being.

“If organisations are going to be fit for the future, leaders need to recognise the issue of stress and do something about it. Setting expectations about the use of mobiles and unplugging from emails during holidays is something senior executives should be doing as matter of course and leading by example.”