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International Stress Awareness Day: Let’s speak up and speak out about stress and wellbeing in the workplace

International Stress Awareness Day: Let’s speak up and speak out about stress and wellbeing in the workplace


Wednesday 1st November 2017 is International Stress Awareness Day, highlighting the affects of stress on individuals and organisations. This year, the campaign is focusing on stress and wellbeing in the workplace – something IDG wants more organisations to be talking openly about.


So what is stress? The Health and Safety Executive and International Stress Management Association UK (ISMA) both describe stress as the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand. These can come from different sources such as work or home and is where the combined affect feels overwhelming. 

‘Flight or Fight’ is a natural response often associated with stress and it’s not necessarily a bad thing as a one-off reaction. However, being continually in this state is. 

And it isn’t something that employers can ignore. Why? For us, it comes down to two key reasons – your duty of care but also the link to your performance and productivity as an organisation. 


The impact of stress and mental health issues in the workplace


Recent research by the CIPD revealed that the number of people experiencing mental health problems whilst in employment has risen over the last five years from a quarter to a third. 

According to mental health charity Mind, one in five agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work due to workplace stress and 42% even considered resigning. 

The latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) also showed that stress accounts for 37% of all work related ill health cases and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health. The Office for National Statistics reported 15m days were lost to stress, depression and anxiety in 2014 – an increase of 24% since 2009. 

With absences from work accounting for £18bn in lost productivity in the UK every year too, that is a concerning trend for the health and sustainability of our organisations and economy, notwithstanding the lost potential in an ever competitive and global marketplace. This figure could also be set to rise to £26bn by 2030 (Centre for Economic & Business Research). 

The Government commissioned Thriving at Work report released just last week also estimates that employers bear a cost of between £33bn and £42bn every year when the impact of absence, presenteeism, and staff turnover are all considered. 

“At a time when there is a national focus on productivity the inescapable conclusion is that it is massively in the interest of both employers and Government to prioritise and invest far more in improving mental health. The UK can ill-afford the productivity cost of this poor mental health.” Thriving at Work Report 2017.



Taking positive steps


Despite the challenging figures and reports around workplace health and wellbeing, the very fact that it is being more openly discussed with new reports, articles and media coverage, shows that awareness and organisational interest in the agenda is on the rise. 

With over half of employers saying they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing (Mind), why not use International Stress Awareness Day as a catalyst for your organisation to talk more about mental health and stress?  

Here are some top tips to get you started.


  • Identify pressure points. Are there times of the day, week or year when work is particularly pressured? Try to identify these and any other trends so you can learn and make plans to support people through them such as workload management and coaching. 
  • Team effort. Consider introducing stress awareness training across your team to help colleagues identify and support each other with pressure before it becomes overwhelming. 
  • Workloads and deadlines were found to be some of the key factors causing work related stress by the Labour Force Survey (LFS). Always be aware of workloads and plan so they stay manageable. 
  • A lack of managerial support was another factor causing work-related stress, depression or anxiety according to the LFS. Make sure your people managers are supported to effectively manage and support their team and where issues with stress arise, they are clear on expectations and where to turn for further advice. 
  • Encourage a culture of self-help and awareness. Give employees the opportunity and confidence to seek support and move forward without fear of stigma or negative impact on their working life. Ensure any initiatives such as employee assistance programmes, medical support or occupational health channels are clearly communicated and easy to access. 
  • Take opportunities to gather feedback and measure impact on health and wellbeing. Work out what success means to your organisation. For example, if you want to create a more open and supportive culture, an increase in mental health support requests can be a good sign as it is showing employees have the opportunity for earlier intervention, reducing long term impact for both themselves and your organisation.


If you want to find out more about stress in the workplace and what you can do to support the health and wellbeing of your workforce, you can also explore these useful links and resources.  


If you are looking to develop your workplace health and wellbeing strategy to support organisation performance, we can help.

From exploring how to improve workplace culture with bespoke people development consulting, to developing your workplace health and wellbeing strategy, our focus is helping you to be a happy, healthy and sustainable business. Please get in touch if you would like to talk more.