Last updated: 13.05.19

How stressed is the UK and how can employers help?

Is the UK a stressed nation?

ACAS reported that around 40% of all work-related illnesses is due to stress, whereas HSE reported over 11 million work days are lost each year to stress.

Let those stats sink in for a moment.

40% is almost half of all work-related illnesses. An awful lot, isn’t it? Unfortunately, we have data that supports this. We carried out a survey earlier this year asking people about their new year’s resolutions, how likely they are to keep them and asked whether there is a link to work-related stress.

The findings were interesting – they did highlight that stress is a big issue, and not just in relation to our inability to keep new year’s resolutions.

The UK's most stressed cities

Our survey found the following:

  • 87% of people from Birmingham say they are stressed at work
  • 46% of Leeds say they wish they can take more time off work due to stress and wellbeing
  • 29% Londoners blamed deadlines for why they failed their resolutions
  • 20% of Norwich said work stress was the reason they couldn’t stick to their resolutions

(To see all the stats, check out our infographic at the bottom of this article)

These stats are worrying. So, what can employers and managers do to help reduce work-related stress?

Why is it still difficult to talk about mental health?

The stigma surrounding stress and mental health is still strong. Even though we are becoming more open about it, it is still a difficult topic to raise and talk about openly. But as employers and managers, there are lots of things you can do to help reduce this stigma and create an environment that not only encourages openness around mental health, but also helps people’s mental health.

First though, let’s talk about stress in more detail.

What is stress?

Stress isn’t classed as an illness, but it can cause physical illness and, if it turns into long-term stress, it can have a major effect on mental illness. It doesn’t just affect the person who is experiencing it either, but can have an effect on friends, family and colleagues.

Factors that can cause stress

Stress is usually a reaction to an excessive amount of pressure and demands placed on someone. Where some pressure can be a good driver and motivator, too much can become overwhelming and difficult to manage. There are many factors that can contribute to a build-up of stress and they can occur in all parts of our lives. Sometimes it is a reaction to work pressures, but work-related stress may also be caused by factors outside of the work place.

Work Related stress

Stress outside of work

Bullying, harassment and discrimination

Workload and deadlines

Structural change

Lack of support

Work/life balance

Time management


New baby



Mental health

Medical conditions

Signs to look out for

There are signs to look out for which could suggest that a colleague or a member of your team is struggling with stress, such as:

  • An increase in conflicts
  • Struggle to meet deadlines
  • Excessive worrying
  • Mood swings/crying

How to make a healthy, open work environment

One of the best things a manager can do is to create an environment that is open and breaks down the barriers surrounding stress and mental health. This will take time, but it’s an important step. Here are some tips to create a healthy and open work environment:

  • Encourage transparency, including discussions about stress and mental health
  • Ensure staff feel valued
  • Involve your team in decision making
  • Communicate clearly and openly
  • Address issues promptly
  • Use active listening skills

Creating a positive and healthy culture in the workplace helps increase productivity and staff wellbeing, creates and more pleasurable atmosphere to work in and increases morale. Consider the list above, how does your environment fair in these areas? Where are your responsibilities? Are there areas which need improving?

If you want to find out more about work-related stress and mental health, we have created some free mental health toolkits for employers and their staff. They are packed with information, tips and resources.

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