Work related stress, anxiety and depression is defined as a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work.
The latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey show:
- The total number of cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety in 2014/15 was 440,000 cases, a prevalence rate of 1380 per 100,000 workers.
- The total number of working days lost due to this condition in 2014/15 was 9.9 million days. This equated to an average of 23 days lost per case.
- In 2014/15 stress accounted for 35% of all work related ill health cases and 43% of all working days lost due to ill health.
Stress is more prevalent in public service industries, such as education; health and social care; and public administration and defence.
The main work factors cited by respondents as causing work related stress, depression or anxiety (LFS, 2009/10-2011/12) were workload pressures, including tight deadlines and too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support.
Experiencing workplace stress, anxiety or depression can create a cycle of events which can be challenging to break.
There are proven strategies that can be implemented to reduce workplace stress and its associated consequences:
For organisations and managers: creating an environment that is conducive to effectively coping with work stress results in significant economic benefits to the corporation.
Reduce workplace stressors such as work overload, job insecurity, and limited resources: provide reasonable work demands and manageable work schedules. Increase employee control over the nature and timing of their work performance as well as decision-making within the organisation. Enhance social support in the workplace; support from both supervisors and colleagues has been shown to be effective in reducing workplace stress.
Offer stress management programs that enhance employees’ coping strategies: programs designed to teach employees how to implement effective coping strategies in the face of workplace stress, including time management, conflict resolution, mindfulness meditation, relaxation and yoga, have been found to be effective.
For individuals, enhancing your own coping strategies and resilience in the face of workplace stress can reduce your risk for depression, anxiety, and burnout.
Adopt a healthy lifestyle: Under times of stress, a balanced diet, exercise, and sound sleep can lay the foundation for effective stress management.
Identify what is stressing you out: Awareness of your triggers, thoughts, and feelings when stressed is a first step towards taking action to control or manage your stress.
Avoid or learn how to manage stress more effectively: Some stressors are under your control and can be avoided or changed (e.g., learning how to say to no to unreasonable requests; prioritising/managing your time more effectively; or shifting your thoughts/beliefs about the situation), while others (e.g., an unexpected and urgent deadline) may require acceptance and a reorganisation of your priorities for the week.
Seek out support: Studies show that support from family, friends, and co-workers can also help buffer the negative effects of work stress.
Seek professional help: If you find that your workplace stress is too much to handle on your own, seeking support from a trained professional can be beneficial. They can help you to identify the sources of your stress and develop strategies for dealing more effectively with work-related stress.