Most of us instinctively know how damaging stress can be to our health and wellbeing. Many experts also agree.
A pioneer in this field is the respected cell biologist, Dr Bruce Lipton. He claims that stress causes at least 95% of all disease. Specifically, he shows how he believes that “destructive and negative cellular memories” lead to negative beliefs, thoughts and emptions which can trigger stress and disease (ref. 1).
What do you think triggers these negative cellular memories, thoughts and stress most? Could it be money worries, sour relationships, work troubles, family squabbles, ill health……?
According to several recent International surveys, there is a clear ‘Winner’. WORK!
The Impact of Work Related Stress
The impact of work related stress is explained in a survey reported by Medical News Today (ref. 2). It shows that for the English and Welsh “Work is the biggest cause of stress in people's lives”. 34 % said that work was either “Very” or “Quite” stressful, more so than financial problems (30 %) or health (17 %) respectively.
The 2013 survey of 2,060 adults found that workplace stress has resulted in:
- 7% (rising to 10% amongst 18 to 24 year olds) having suicidal thoughts, and 18% developing anxiety.
- 57% drinking after work and 14% drinking during the working day to cope with work stress and pressure.
- Use of other coping mechanisms such as smoking (28%), taking antidepressants (15%), over the counter sleeping aids (16%) and prescribed sleeping tablets (10%).
The findings also show that a culture of fear and silence about stress and mental health problems can be costly to employers. Key findings included:
- 19% take time off sick because of stress, but 90% of those people did not disclose that reason to their employer, and cited something else.
- 9% resigned from a job due to stress and 25% have considered resigning due to work pressure.
- 19% felt they couldn't tell their boss about their stress issues. Of the 22% who have a diagnosed mental health problem, less than half had told their boss about their diagnosis.
- 56% of managers said they would like to do more to improve staff mental wellbeing, but they needed more training and/or guidance which is not a priority in their organisation.
Similarly for Americans, TIME Magazine reports on the negative health effects of “Telepressure.” “Telepressure” is defined as “The need to be constantly connected electronically to the office” by the Journal of Occupational Health and Psychology (ref. 3). The Journal’s survey shows that 52% of Americans suffered “Telepressure” in the form of poor sleep quantity and quality, higher levels of burnout, and more health-related absences from work.
In addition to “Telepressure” 3 out of 4 working Americans say that their “boss” is the most stressful part of their job. 44% claim that they have been verbally, emotionally, or physically abused by a supervisor or boss at some point in their career, and 31% of workers say their boss doesn’t appreciate them (ref. 4)
Perhaps you can relate?
Of course, the cost associated with all this stress goes beyond that of an individual’s health. It’s also costly to employers. As the Minute MBA site says (ref. 4): “Stress-related health expenses, productivity losses and the costs associated with high employee turnover rates are currently costing American companies an estimated $360 billion each year.” I’m unsure how they came up with that figure. But it seems extremely high.
How can Work Related Stress be Addressed?
For Americans, it appears that according to Government survey data (ref. 5) almost one in four workers have no paid annual leave, and only about six paid statutory/national holidays a year. This is less than the minimum legal standard set in the rest of world's rich economies, excluding Japan (which guarantees only 10 paid annual leave days and requires no paid statutory/national holidays.
Contrast this scenario with Europe….
The continent of ‘siestas’ and ‘vacances’, Europe used to pride itself on its healthy work-life balance. But as surveys show how Europeans increasingly struggle to stop work encroaching on their private lives (ref. 6), governments are taking action.
In France, a legally binding labor agreement was introduced this year to ‘mandate’ that 250,000 employees “disconnect” from work in every way outside of working hours.
Meanwhile in Germany, psychological illness is claimed to be the reason for 14% of missed work days. This is a 50% rise over the last 12 years (ref. 6). Accordingly, the labor minister has commissioned a study to define the cost of work-related stress to the economy. This may “pave the way” for an anti-stress act which was recently proposed by Germany’s metalworkers’ union. The act requires that employees should be protected from being “permanently reachable by modern means of communication.”
I suggest that improving wellbeing in the work place - whether mental, emotional or physical - doesn't have to be complicated or costly. Flexible working hours, generous annual leave, fitness &/or relaxation facilities, healthy eating options, and good team camaraderie may help to support a more balanced work environment. Surely too, such measures may encourage staff to be more loyal and motivated. And committed, happy staff may compensate for any ‘well-being’ costs.
What do you think? How is stress at work affecting you? Is work your biggest cause of stress? Do you have any relaxation coping strategies? Please do share your thoughts and recommendations.
26 November 2014
- For details of Dr Lipton’s views on the relationship between stress and disease, see http://www.lindaburke.co.uk/images/custom/uploads/126/files/Meta-Sync%20Science%282%29.pdf
- The original Medical News today report on the survey by ‘Mind’ can be seen at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/257950.php More on the Mind survey can be found at http://www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/news/work-is-biggest-cause-of-stress-in-peoples-lives/#.VHTfp8nofDw
- The TIME Magazine’s report on Telepressure can be seen at http://time.com/3560203/stress-work-email/
- For the Minute MBA article on ‘The True Cost of a Bad Boss’, see http://www.onlinemba.com/blog/true- cost-bad-boss/
- The US paper on ‘No Vacation Nation’ is at http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/2007-05-no- vacation-nation.pdf
- How Europe is addressing work place stress: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/18/germany-law-work-related-stress