Is the Office making us ill?

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Today’s blog post is from David Saul, Managing Director of BEG, one of the many Office Companies that we work with. David’s post concerns sickness and stress related illness concerning business. Please leave any comments at the bottom after reading………

Working 9-5 is no longer a reality for most modern office workers. Smart technology means employees are constantly able to check emails and take calls from clients and colleagues, while the recession means reduced budgets and fears over job losses are leading to longer working hours. All this spells danger for employee health.

In a recent survey, we discovered that stress is a major issue facing sectors as diverse as finance, health, education and public services. Alarmingly, one in five workers said they had taken time off work due to stress, and Sir Hector Sants’ recent break from Barclays due to exhaustion only serves to highlight the problem.

Unrealistic deadlines, pressure from above and lack of support were named as the top culprits for causing stress – something most workers will have experienced at some point in their careers. But what’s really worrying is the way people are dealing with stress and the effects this could be having on their health.

If ignored, long term stress is known to lead to problems such as depression, exhaustion and insomnia, as well as increase the risk of digestive and heart health problems. Mental health charity Mind believes there is still a taboo about speaking up at work with most employees lying about why they are taking time off, rather than admitting they are stressed.

Our research also found that workers are amplifying the problem by turning to unhealthy tactics to de-stress. While many workers use exercise and deep breathing to control stress, three per cent say they have a cigarette to keep stress at bay, while six per cent turn to the bottle.

It’s clear that this way of working is not sustainable. I believe employers must take more responsibility and work with staff to remove the stigma around stress, as well as educate them about more positive ways to deal with high-pressure situations.

We’ve been running a Stoptober campaign to help employees quit smoking using a reward and incentive scheme if they keep it up long term. We also run a monthly ‘call and care’ visits by HR where employees can speak confidentially about any problems they are experiencing at work.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. A business of any size has a duty to care for its staff and this means putting steps in place to limit the effects of long-term stress. Of course there will be times when employees need to go above and beyond but this should never become the status quo.


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