Stress in the workplace is on the rise with nearly half of employers seeing an increase in levels according to a new survey.

The findings, compiled in the annual Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development/Simplyhealth Absence Management Survey, revealed that 42% of organisations have seen an inflation in stress-induced days off.

workplace stress

Some organisations still aren't taking stress in the workplace seriously

This increase was linked to a general rise in time being taken off work in 2013. The report found that the average employee now takes 7.6 days off, up on the 2012 figure of 6.8 days per year, while the North West experiences most absences in England with 8.8 days taken in the region.

Call centre workers are likely to have the most time off in any industry with staff absent for on average 12.5 days, while those working in the Health industry take 11.1 days off per year.

And although better working patterns have helped reduce absences in some areas, 26% of organisations said that ‘pulling a sickie’ was still a common problem.

Neil Shah, director at the Stress Management Society and author of The Ten-Step Stress Solution, believes many employers are not seriously confronting the problem in their offices.

“If a person is under stress it is going to impact their ability to work effectively and it is something which is not taken seriously enough by employers,” he told Huffington Post UK.

“Many companies are looking to get more for less. As an employer your workforce is your most valuable asset and if you don’t have a productive and effective workforce then it will harm the ability to run a successful business.”

The news that companies are ‘looking to get more for less’ in today’s workplace is alarmingly prescient. High fliers and senior management are not immune either. Only last week Barclays head of global compliance, Sir Hector Sants, announced he was to take a leave of absence for ‘exhaustion and stress’, while Lloyds Banking Group chief Antonio Horta-Osorio was out of the office for similar reasons in 2011.

It is becoming a growing problem in offices throughout the UK and even though the issue is slowly starting to be acknowledged by employers, a third of organisations are still not taking any steps to address it.

Dr. Jill Miller, research adviser at the CIPD, feels there is a stigma attached to stress in the workplace.

"It is a problem that is not going to go away. Stress can manifest itself in different ways for different people, so it can be hard to notice,” she told HuffPost UK

“People need to feel comfortable talking about stress and that can often be difficult in a work environment.”

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Counseling sessions, staff surveys and work-life balance initiatives are all increasingly common ‘support mechanisms’ for staff, but Dr. Miller believes more needs to be done to encourage employee involvement.

“Employers may well have support mechanisms in place but it is important that employees know about them and that they can be done in a confidential and private way”

While stress-related absence has increased 42% overall, it is much more of an acute problem among public service workers.

Industrial action by two teaching unions recently - the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and NASUWT – has highlighted how pay freezes, higher pension contributions and regular redundancies have taken their toll on the industry and many teachers have cited stress as a major concern.

Since the Coalition government came to power public services have been hit hard; 631,000 roles have been lost since 2010 with forecasters predicting that figure will rise to one million by the next general election in 2015.

Dr. Miller says it ‘isn’t surprising’ stress among public sector workers is high given fears many have surrounding job security and a stagnation in wages in recent times.

“A lot of people haven’t seen an increase in their wages but have seen an increase in energy bills and other costs.

“This makes it really tough for people and can be a major cause of stress which isn’t surprising.”

CIPD/Simplyhealth Absence Management Survey analysed 618 companies in June-July 2013.

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  • Diet

    What you ingest, substance or data, has to be metabolized as the endocrine system activates and deactivates hormone secretions and bodily systems in order to identify and deal with these substances efficiently. Even information is dealt with in the mind by the activation of brain chemicals. So to every action, there is always an opposite reaction. Most people relate to how the body struggles to deal with excessive alcohol, but this being the case with everything we ingest, depending on the potentially damaging content of the substance, the body and mind will always respond. A balanced diet, eaten at regular intervals, containing the building blocks of healthy nutrition, is vital.

  • Alcohol

    Alcohol is a stimulant and a poison. This statement might seem strong given that most people take it regularly, but the truth is, short term, it can make you feel ill, long-term or in high doses, it can kill. Despite this, alcohol can be used medicinally and consumed safely but few have the willpower to control quantities, especially when used as a social lubricant. Physical and mental equilibrium is severely and also, sometimes, irreversibly damaged by excessive alcohol consumption and despite alcohol being the most readily available and most commonly used drug, most people dismiss its true nature due to its social acceptability. Respect it for what it is or it will consume you; it’s stimulating properties alone are a ‘no no’ for stress or anxiety sufferers.

  • Smoking

    Nicotine and the substances involved in its transportation into a person’s bloodstream is a stimulant and the accompanying substances congest the body in a way only matched by substances such as cholesterol. Nicotine’s stimulant properties makes it a definite enemy of those suffering from stress and anxiety, although alongside alcohol, it is probably the most utilized substance for stress relief ‘self-medicating’. If you smoke, cut it down by 20-30% and do so at regular intervals and make a plan to withdraw completely once you have cured your stress condition.

  • Exercise

    What does exercise do? It strengthens muscles yes, but it also teaches the autonomic nervous system to control the interaction between bodily systems more effectively to bring about and maximize our levels of fitness. Therefore it is vital to health and wellbeing and also to the balance that assists in acquiring and maintaining a stress and anxiety free lifestyle. There’s no need to hit the treadmill but swapping short taxi rides for walks or cycling and using the stairs more can dramatically increase stamina and lead to a fast improvement in all round health and wellbeing. Exercise also assists in the transit of food through the digestive tract and helps to prevent mechanical injuries by improving core strength, flexibility and joint mobility.

  • Anxiety

    I could go on for days about anxiety, its cause, its impact and its solution but I would be doing every reader a disservice if I pretended that anxiety disorders could be fixed in a few sentences. I will say this; anxiety is a psychological ‘environment’ or ‘state’ brought about by too much of the emotion of fear… it is not a mental illness, in fact it is not an illness of any kind and it can be eliminated completely – but to do so, the sufferer requires a small group of devices coupled with unfaltering support from an anxiety recovery specialist… me and my team. Anxiety recovery is guaranteed if the practitioner has the knowledge required to achieve it.

  • Sleep

    The importance of effective sleep patterns should never be underestimated, having said that, the body will take sleep when it needs it. Many people with stress and anxiety become very worried that their sleep patterns have been disrupted and that this could have a detrimental effect on their physical and mental health. Many sufferers also believe that they don’t sleep at all, but our experience is that despite sometimes, massively disrupted sleep patterns, the same people do sleep, albeit spasmodically. The best sleep is always achieved after activity – both mental and physical, that renders the person both physically and mentally tired. Physical tiredness or mental tiredness in isolation can cause disruptive sleep patterns, so there must be balance in your daytime activities.

  • Money

    Our experience shows that not having sufficient money can increase stress levels but for some people, having money can also present its issues. Regardless of income, money stress should always be managed by creating structured records of your incoming and outgoings. There’s always enough money out there, but it’s how to fill your pockets with it that alludes many people. There are always ways to make money and despite personal beliefs and boundaries, what starts as a menial money-spinner can often be steered into a profitable business. It’s all about perception. You have to make the decision as to whether the effort provides enough ROI (return on investment) and if not how to work smarter. There is never an excuse to have empty pockets.

  • Relationships

    Maintaining healthy relationships is as much about protecting yourself as your interaction with other people. It is not difficult to tell which relationships are productive and which elevate your stress levels! Like I always tell my clients, if someone is kicking you in the shins, you have a choice. You continue to tolerate the pain or you remove yourself geographically. As someone once said, life isn’t a dress rehearsal. It is a waste of your time and your emotional energy to tolerate someone else’s negativity. The people who project negative energies ‘power zappers’ – we all know them and it is entirely our choice as to whether we give them space in our worlds.

  • Confidence

    I always ask the clients what their definition of confidence is and they each give me an assorted collection – most around a skill that is learnt in a course. Confidence is actually a lack of fear; it is a lack of fear of ultimate catastrophic outcomes. There is not much in life that can’t be mended if you do it incorrectly. By addressing your stress and anxiety levels and bringing them back to your birth pre-set you will automatically respond with higher levels of confidence.