Hey-ho, ho-hum, or holy hell? UK workers smitten by stress, but charitable help is at hand

THE UK’S workforce is increasingly held back by mental health problems such as stress, depression and anxiety, research shows.

Some 13 percent of British employees — 4.3 million people — are unhappy at work, according to research by Robert Half UK. That’s the highest rate of workplace unhappiness in the countries surveyed: Canada, Australia, Germany and the US — and Britain’s rate is four percent higher than that of the US.

One in three UK respondents admitted to finding their work stressful, while one in 10 said they were dissatisfied with their work–life balance.

The latest data from the Health And Safety Executive’s Labour Force Survey shows that the combined effect resulted in the loss of more than 15,000,000 working days over a 12-month period. Absences were due to mental health problems caused or worsened by stress, depression or anxiety.

This accounts for 57 percent of total missed days due to self-reported illness. Burnout caused by stress and anxiety is responsible for 44 percent of all reported illnesses in the workplace.

In response to the findings, and the challenges presented by mental health issues in the workplace, Robert Half UK has announced a new partnership with Mind, the leading mental health charity in the UK.

Robert Half offices around the UK will be supporting Mind through local and national fundraising initiatives and by raising awareness of mental wellbeing among its staff and clients.

Robert Half UK managing director, Matt Weston, said the mission was to “build a culture where everyone can be happy at work”.

Companies should find ways to make their employees feel more involved in their everyday work, he said, while providing a support network that allows employees to voice their concerns regarding the nature and progress of their role. “Building a positive work environment, and recognising the connection between employee happiness and mental health … are vital,” he said.

The head of corporate partnerships at Mind, Rebecca Hastings, said that money raised during the partnership would help to fund Mind’s Infoline, advice services and campaigning work.

Warning signs of employee burnout:

  1. Unusual working patterns — late starts or early finishes, for example — are often the first sign that an employee is feeling under pressure.
  2. Decreased productivity – making more mistakes than usual, or signs of strained working relationships.
  3. Increased negative interactions with managers or colleagues could be a result of dissatisfaction on the employee’s part. Not contributing to workplace discussions with managers or colleagues could also be a sign of dissatisfaction.
  4. An increased amount of sick leave could indicate work-induced burnout.
  5. Paradoxically, presenteeism — coming in to work when ill — and failing to take annual leave could also be a sign of burnout.
  6. Emotional outbursts could be a means of expressing unhappiness or dissatisfaction with an employee’s role.