UK employers 'don't handle stress well'

A survey suggests UK employers aren't exactly leading the way when it comes to dealing with stressed workers. Which could backfire...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 19 Dec 2011
Given all the stresses and strains workers have had to deal with lately, it’s perhaps no wonder that – according to a survey by mental health charity Mind - 41% of them describe themselves as ‘stressed’ or ‘very stressed’ at work, while two-thirds say they’ve been put under extra pressure since the beginning of the recession. And the bad news is that management failures seem to be a big part of the problem...

In fact, of the 2,000 employees who took part in the survey, many said stress wasn’t handled well in their workplace - 22% of those who had disclosed a mental health problem had been fired or forced to quit. And even if they hadn’t had a bad experience, stress tends to be frowned upon: 41% said stress was a ‘taboo’ subject, while 46% suggested that in their workplace, it was seen as an ‘excuse’ for something else. One in four said they were worried their employers would think they’re ‘less capable’ than others if they admitted to feeling stressed.

The other worrying point was that nearly half of workers said they’re scared to take time off sick. And while ranks of terrified workers toiling through a case of the sniffles rather than taking a day off at the first sneeze might sound like an employer’s dream, having a load of workers who are too sick or stressed to concentrate isn’t going to do much to boost productivity.

It’s not exactly news that employers have a pretty dire record when it comes to handling mental illness – in fact, MT did a feature about it a few months ago. But Mind CEO Paul Farmer pointed out that with one in six workers suffering from mental health problems, businesses are going be counting the cost. ‘At the moment, it exists as a costly and unaddressed elephant in the room,’ he said.  


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