Stress in the workplace has risen dramatically in the past decade.
According to Manchester Mind, more than 70 per cent of workers will have experienced mental health problems at some point in their lives.
A recent story in Manchester’s Business Live states that the same research shows that more than 50 per cent of workers will have been affected by poor mental health in their current role, and stress plays a huge part in this.
Pressure in the workplace is expected and normal, but when it starts to overwhelm staff to the point where it feels unmanageable, there can be serious health implications and high levels of employee absenteeism.
According to HSE statistics, there were 600,000 cases of work-related stress, anxiety or depression in 2017/18, which accounted for 44 per cent of all the cases of work-related ill health in Britain
“We all know what it’s like to feel stressed. Being under pressure is a normal part of life. But becoming overwhelmed by stress can lead to mental health problems or make existing problems worse,” said Sam Harwood marketing and communications manager at Manchester Mind.
“Mind in Greater Manchester (the five local Mind charities) wants to ensure that mental health problems are not a barrier to someone having a productive and fulfilling work life. We also want to ensure that work environments across Greater Manchester are welcoming and positive places for mental wellbeing.”
In the recruitment sector, it is reported that one in four recruiters will experience a
If we can tackle stress head on before it gets too severe I truly believe we could reduce the number of stress related absences, and greatly improve the mental health of workers across the UK.”
Laura Pointon, employment lawyer at leading independent Manchester law firm Brabners has seen a rise in work-related stress due to technology and societal pressures.
She said: “I have seen a significant increase in legal cases involving individuals suffering from stress at work as a direct result of the modern working environment where technology has made it harder for people to ‘switch off’. Employees feel obliged to respond to emails instantly at any time of day and can’t leave their work at home as a result.
“The Mental Health Foundation reckons that three quarters of UK adults reported feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope in 2018 and young people were by far the most acutely affected. Societal pressures are having a direct and damaging psychological impact.”
Like many other firms in Greater Manchester, in response, Brabners is placing a strong emphasis on employee wellbeing.
“The sector I work in – law – is renowned for being high-pressured and, to its credit, my firm Brabners has made physical and mental wellbeing a real focus,” said Pointon. “We are working hard to reduce the stigma around work-related stress and tackle the issue head-on in a number of innovative ways.
“The business has fully bought in to flexible working and provides a range of activities to reduce stress such as resilience training, desk yoga and lunch time walks.
“But these initiatives wouldn’t work without genuine cultural change and encouraging dialogue between employees and their managers is central to our approach. It’s vital everyone feels they can talk openly and honestly and ask for help when they need it.”
Other local employers are also striving to create a culture of openness around stress and mental health.
“I do think stress is increasing in businesses as there is more competition in every industry,” said Peter Dorotiak, director at Aspect IT in Oldham.
“However, I do feel stress in the workplace can be tackled efficiently with regular communication and reassurance in businesses. It can be difficult for some people to speak out about their issues (predominantly males) and I think every organisation should encourage anyone to speak out to reduce stress.
“We have monthly yoga sessions that allow us to give everyone a break from their computers and the company tackles issues with stress at work by encouraging employees to come forward and speak about any issues or concerns that they have.”
At Together finance, based in Cheadle, which has a Mind Matters support group for colleagues, all managers are also going through mental health awareness training.
Pete Ball, Together’s CEO of personal finance, who sponsors the support group personally, agrees that males can sometimes find it more difficult to talk about emotions. “We have just had a visit by a representative from Andy’s Men’s Club in Manchester to talk to staff and encourage males to be open about stress and other mental health issues.”
Andy’s Man Club was started by Luke Ambler in Halifax in July 2016 after his brother-in-law, Andy Roberts, killed himself at the age of 23. The group meets at Manchester The Federation Federation Street, Manchester, every Monday at 7pm apart from Bank Holidays.
“AO encourages all employees, known as AO’ers, to focus on their wellbeing and work life balance to combat stress at work,” said Camilla Seymour, employee relations manager at AO.com.
For firms looking for help implementing stress awareness or mental health initiatives, Mind in Greater Manchester (the five local Mind charities) has developed the first ever Workplace Wellbeing Training Package, specifically designed for Greater Manchester businesses.