What’s the real cost of work place stress?


 By Dr. Emma Mardlin and John Clayton, Trainers and Practioners of Mind Body Medicine, clinical psychotherapy, NLP, health and well-being.

Workplace stress is an increasingly prevalent and serious issue that eats away at profits, dramatically reduces efficiency and makes good staff hand in their notice, something most employers are no doubt familiar with. However this isn’t something we should just accept as ‘part and parcel’ of work because ‘stress’ is just the beginning of a very negative cycle in terms of our health, business and our economy as a whole.

First of all, it’s imperative to highlight that STRESS KILLS. This might sound dramatic on the face of it, however if stress is not adequately dealt with and is left to manifest in the body over time, it can all too easily result in a host of escalating conditions from IBS and depression to heart disease and cancer.

Stress doesn’t just affect a select few either, one in five of the working population are affected by stress, from the newest recruit in the post room to members on the board of directors; stress certainly doesn’t discriminate by position and it’s now become the single biggest cause of sickness in the UK.

Resources from Health and Safety Executive report that over 105,000,000 days are lost to stress each year, costing UK employers a massive £1.24 billion, but this isn’t just a financial cost.

75% of all illnesses in the UK can be attributed to stress that results in a host of psychological and physical conditions, evidencing that our health really does burns a whole in our economy. There’s the direct cost to business which in turn creates a negative multiplier effect leading to the wider implications of the NHS picking up the health bill and of course the serious implications to individuals and their families affecting their overall lifestyle, which then goes on to negatively affect the economy as a whole – depressed individuals don’t often go out enjoying themselves, they are instead likely to pay increased visits to the doctors, fall behind with payments and in some cases resort to income support or other benefits.

Despite 10.8 million working days being lost due to anxiety, stress or depression in 2010/11 according to the HSE labour force survey, it’s not just absenteeism that hits businesses in the pocket. Figures from the Centre for Mental Health show that most people suffering from stress continue to work, but may struggle with concentration and effective decision making. It’s estimated that this sort of ‘presenteeism’ costs UK businesses £15.1 billion per year in reduced productivity; consequently causing businesses to malfunction, under preform and ultimately result in workplace disharmony, something that breeds as this overall apathy and discontent is projected on to other colleagues, associates, and fundamentally, customers.

This also isn’t exclusive to the private business sector either, as trainers as well as practitioners of health and well-being; we directly see the impact this has on the public sector too, particularly with teachers and medics. Unfortunately this can have devastating effects on the recipients of this ‘workplace stress’ by way of displacement on children and patients. All too often we have seen how staff under pressure and stress have made numerous mistakes leading to negligence, mal practice and even legal action due to catastrophic consequences. It’s unfortunately not uncommon to hear how a professional has at some point seemingly taken something out on a patient, student or customer alike.

Nevertheless, although this is an increasingly prevalent problem, it’s high time to increase our awareness of the wider implications of stress in the workplace and take action to do something about it.

We often find that addressing the core root cause of stress is imperative in successfully tackling the wider implications, as well as providing staff with good solid coping mechanisms to successfully manage the day to day challenges we can all incur at work – state management is key in this respect. In addition to this we always emphasise that good communication and awareness is vital in resolving this problem, people have to have an outlet and feel they can safely express their sentiments with a practical, supportive and constructive solution as opposed to any reprimand, ridicule or avoidance of the subject. No one wants to feel they are weak or simply can’t cope.

‘Stress can kill but it certainly doesn’t have to’ and the sooner we all have a high conscious awareness of this as well as the entire ‘stress cycle’, the sooner we can actively put a stop to this escalation, positively encourage business, and fundamentally increase our health and well-being in the workplace. This in turn will then create an all-round positive multiplier effect for everyone, all sectors and the economy as a whole.

Since launching ‘Well-being in the Work Place’ courses, we have witnessed some amazing changes in people in terms of recovered health, increased confidence and more positive attitudes and overall different approaches to work. Objectively, we have had employers and HR departments report an upturn in productivity, good health and positive ‘presenteeism’ overall; thus protecting our health (mental and physical), evidently protects our pockets!

For more information please visit www.thepinnaclepractice.co.uk

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