Work-related stress soars during a recession, leading to a sharp rise in employee absenteeism, new research has revealed.
The study of tens of thousands of civil servants in Northern Ireland revealed that as many as one in four workers suffered from work stress during an economic downturn, the Press Association reports.
The researchers at the University of Nottingham and University of Ulster also found the number of employees taking time off due to job stress increased by 25% during tough economic times while the total amount of time off increased by more than a third.
Jonathan Houdmont, the study's lead author, said: "The findings suggest that those businesses which seek to reduce work-related stress during austere economic times are likely to experience lower staff absence and greater productivity."
His findings were published in the scientific journal, Occupational Medicine.
Sarah Page, health and safety officer at the Prospect union, commented, as reported by the Press Association: "When workers face reduced job security and an increased workload it is no surprise that depression and anxiety increase, along with absences from work. People feel afraid, uncertain, less supported by managers, and less in control of their lives.
"Previous studies of civil servants had shown that if organisational changes occur without consulting and involving the workforce, the effects on individuals are far more damaging.
"This is an issue where government, employers and unions can make a difference by working together. Employers have a duty to ensure workers' health, safety and welfare at work, and that includes mental health. It shouldn't be about trying to mop up the mess when it's too late, but about introducing preventive measures and support networks."
Another recent survey of 3,000 employees found that workers under the age of 30 are more likely to take time of due to work stress than their over-50s counterparts.
Peter Morton, the marketing manager of Multibionta vitamins, which commissioned the survey, said: "Today's fast paced, work-hard play-hard lifestyle appears to be taking its toll on the younger generation.
"A poor immune system caused by smoking, drinking and a lack of nutritionally beneficial food, lends itself to people being more susceptible to coughs and colds which in turn can lead to sick days."
In a separate study, researchers from the University of Hawaii discovered that work stress could be as contagious as colds and flu.
The study found that our brains act like sponges and subconsciously soak up emotions, behavioural traits and facial expressions emitted from our co-workers.
"People seem to be capable of mimicking others facial, vocal and postural expressions with stunning rapidity," says professor Elaine Hatfield who led the study.
She added: "As a consequence, they are able to feel themselves into those other emotional lives to a surprising extent," adds Professor Hatfield.”
The recession is not the only reason Brits are struggling to keep their heads at work. Firms are being urged to encourage their staff to literally switch off when they finish work after new research showed that frequently checking smart phones and other gadgets for emails and messages increased stress levels.
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, Sleep and Energy Coach at Capio Nightingale Hospital and author of Tired But Wired agrees that technology is making it increasingly difficult for employees to switch off and unwind after work.
She suggests the following tips on how to unplug, recharge and break free from the day’s stresses: