Work-related stress, depression or anxiety are the leading causes of working days lost through work-related injury or ill health, with an estimated 13.8 million days a year lost in 2006/7. Figures from the 2006/7 Survey of Self-reported Work-related illness estimate that each case of stress leads to an average of 30.2 days lost.
So why is stress so prevalent in our working lives and what can employers and employees do to recognise it, prevent it or deal with it? The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as “The adverse reaction a person has to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed upon them. It is not an illness in itself but if it is prolonged or particularly intense it can lead to physical and/or mental ill health.”
The fact that stress is not an illness, that it is not a diagnosis and cannot be categorised on a sick list is a dilemma for the medical profession. Yet stress is a fact of life for 3 in 10 employees in any one year in the 21st century. The speed of life, emails, instant communication, constantly having to do things faster and better, juggling domestic and professional responsibilities, losing the role of the provider when redundancy loom. All of these contribute to the pressure cooker effect and the inability to cope.
For the employer, the impact on productivity and profitability of staff being off work due to stress can be considerable. What members discovered at the forum is that all is not lost, there is help at hand to prevent and manage stress.