Workplace stress and anxiety causing productivity drop, poll finds

Figures should be a ‘wake-up call’ for employers, experts say, as survey reveals high levels of mental health conditions among UK workforce

Widespread workplace stress and anxiety have contributed to a significant drop in productivity during the last two years, a survey has found. 

A report from Champion Health, which polled 2,200 UK employees, found that two-thirds (67 per cent) were experiencing moderate to high levels of stress, while more than a quarter (28 per cent) had seen their productivity negatively impacted within the last two years. 

More than a third (34 per cent) of those polled said that stress was negatively impacting them, with the main causes of stress at work cited as workload, lack of control and less support.

Additionally, more than half of employees said they felt fatigued, and a similar number (53 per cent) reported that tiredness was impacting their productivity at work.

Almost one in 10 (8 per cent) of those polled reported experiencing self-harm or suicidal thoughts.

The survey looked at the mental health and wellbeing of the UK’s working population between April 2020 and December 2021. 

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Harry Bliss, CEO of Champion Health, said the research had presented a “wake-up call” for businesses and organisations to take their teams’ wellbeing and mental health seriously. 

“We are seeing a workforce feeling the huge effects of the changes to workplaces and the heightening expectations placed upon them as individuals. 

“We need to see a quantifiable, significant step-up in the amount of investment companies make in employee wellbeing strategies so that employees are supported to overcome the struggles that they’ve faced throughout the pandemic”, he said. 

Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD, said employers should focus on prevention rather than “allowing problems to snowball”.

“Crucial to this proactive approach is training line managers to identify potential causes of stress and ensuring they are effective at managing people and workloads,” she said.

The research also found that almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of female employees reported feeling anxious, compared to less than two in five (37 per cent) male workers. 

Additionally, more than half (52 per cent) of employees surveyed said they had symptoms of depression, with around a quarter (22 per cent) having been identified as experiencing clinically significant symptoms.