Work Related Stress - A Significant Problem That Employers Need To Address

16/08/2017 14:28 BST | Updated 16/08/2017 14:29 BST

It's a feeling we've all experienced - the pressure of a fast-approaching deadline, the tension caused by a negative working environment or a simple human error causing ripples of momentary panic in the office.

These are all causes of work-related stress and they're not uncommon. I was surprised to learn that every year more than 11 million working days are lost in the UK due to feelings of anxiety, depression or work-related stress.

And it's not just the UK that is seeing these worrying numbers. Recent research conducted by Bupa across Australia, Spain and Hong Kong, as well as the UK, has revealed that people are increasingly turning to Google for practical support, frequently searching for phrases such as 'how to cope with stress' and 'signs of stress'.

'Time-management' is the most popular search when it comes to work-life balance, while 'work stress' is a top search term in each of Australia, Spain and Hong Kong individually - which I find concerning.

The feeling of work-related stress is something we can all relate to. Responsibility for the health and wellbeing of employees shouldn't end the moment they log off or finish their shift. Workplace stress and anxiety always follows us home. It is for this reason it is incumbent upon us to create positive working environments that empower and encourage employees to get the best out of their day.

Providing a happy, healthy workplace is important to us at Bupa and we want to ensure our businesses are places people love to work. With over half of the world's population in some form of employment, we see the workplace as a perfect arena to implement positive behavioural changes. With this in mind, we have several initiatives across our businesses worldwide aimed at improving the wellbeing of our workforce.

Smile is our global workplace health and wellbeing approach, which improves our workforce's wellbeing through programmes such as Performance Energy, which empowers employees to set 'non-negotiable' work-life balance goals. This can include committing to regular exercise, spending time with loved ones, or something else - whatever it is that will make you happy and fulfilled, thus leading to peak productivity in the workplace.

One of the key benefits of Performance Energy for me is that empowers employees to have an open conversation with their managers and agree on what their non-negotiables are. We encourage people to share these so we can then look out for each other to ensure we are sticking to them. Non-negotiables provide the much needed space to recharge our batteries - it is these that give us our energy.

Other examples of our health and wellbeing initiatives worldwide include:

• Our UK Mind Matters initiative, which includes: Mental Health Direct Access services, offering customers confidential access to a trained counsellor via telephone; Healthy Minds, which gives our employees 24/7 access to confidential counselling, legal and financial support as well as access to online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy; and Emotional Wellbeing Online, which uses evidence-based interventions to support customers to learn skills in stress management, resilience and mindfulness to improve sleep.

• Our global Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) Network, a group of world-leading clinicians committed to improving the world's health through the workplace. Here's a link to our latest report.

I'm proud of what Bupa is doing to improve the health and wellbeing of our people, as well as the wider population. Businesses as a whole are making big strides in this space, as shown in our recent Wellbeing Edit report, but I know there is more to do to ensure we are all tackling work-related stress together.

There is no 'one size fits all' solution - it will require businesses of all shapes and sizes to learn from one another and establish what it is we can do to help employees around the world to better manage their stress levels. At Bupa we are very much on a journey but I'm positive we're moving in the right direction.