Company culture is a leading cause of stress, according to HR professionals

Employers admit they need to do more to help staff cope, with employees feeling misled over workplace pressures during recruitment process 

Company culture is one of the prevailing causes of stress, according to almost half of senior HR professionals surveyed in an influential poll that suggests significant differences in the ways employees and businesses view mental health in the workplace.

The report from insurer MetLife found 45 per cent of HR professionals believed their organisational culture caused stress, although 40 per cent said they were working to create a ‘caring and inclusive’ culture.

Only 37 per cent of the 1,068 UK employees polled said they felt their business had been honest at the recruitment stage about the demands that would be placed on staff, but 56 per cent of HR professionals claimed the stress risks were made clear. 

There has been a slight overall improvement in how stressed employees feel, with 42 per cent saying their job was extremely stressful or stressful compared to 47 per cent when the same survey was conducted in 2014. However, 57 per cent now think their job is becoming ‘more stressful’ compared with 52 per cent in the previous poll. 

The report called for more to be done to deliver lasting change beyond the provision of reactive tools such as employee assistance programmes. Two thirds (66 per cent) of HR professionals said resilience needed to be driven by senior executives, and 57 per cent admitted they needed to increase their focus on developing employee resilience, with just 40 per cent reporting that they currently did enough in this area.

However, 84 per cent of employers surveyed said there was no clarity on best practice to address mental health issues in the workplace. 

According to the figures, there has been progress in addressing the issue of stress at work, with 64 per cent of employees saying their organisation now offered support, compared with 51 per cent when MetLife researched the issue in 2014.

Ornella Nsio, stakeholder engagement manager at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, said mental health support was an essential part of the modern workplace, and the higher proportion of organisations offering support was encouraging.

“However, there is clearly still more work for employers to do, especially in highlighting the demands on staff during the recruitment process,” said Nsio. 

“Specialist recruiters can play an important role by using their knowledge of the sector to advise clients on the design of their job descriptions and candidate briefs.”

Adrian Matthews, employee benefits director at MetLife UK, said that despite largely positive views from management, there was more that needed to be done. He advised that employers should not be deterred by cost as many interventions can be implemented for free.  

“Employers are saying they need help: 84 per cent said there is no clarity on best practice to address mental health issues in the workplace,” said Matthews. “It may be that the explosion of interest in the topic is leading employers into inaction.”

The research showed that both employers and employees welcomed training on dealing with work pressures – however, just 32 per cent of businesses currently offered specialist advice to help employees cope with stress.