More UK workers seeking counselling for anxiety and job stress, figures show

Use of wellbeing benefits related to mental health has increased as employees continue to face challenges in the wake of the pandemic

Credit: SamuelBrownNG/Getty Images

There has been a sharp rise in the number of people seeking counselling for anxiety and job stress, data has revealed.

Zurich UK has reported a 50 per cent year-on-year increase in calls to its Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) provided to corporate customers, with anxiety being the most common reason for seeking help.

There were 9,697 calls made to its EAP service between January and December 2021, up from 6,446 in 2020: an increase the firm said was “significantly more” than the increase in the number of customers who had access to the service.

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It added there was a 67 per cent increase in the number of calls about anxiety, and a 48 per cent increase in calls about job stress.

Nick Homer, head of group risk at Zurich UK, said the increased anxiety and work-related stress was a key contributor to workplace absence. 

But, he said, early identification of illnesses or mental health concerns could lead to “swifter intervention”, which could help prevent absences or help an employee make a successful return to work.

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“Proactive and preventative care [will enable organisations] to get the best from their employees, boost productivity, and reduce the risk of mental health-related sickness or absence,” Homer said.

The data also showed an increase in calls about problems outside the workplace, including a 120 per cent increase in the volume of calls about bereavement, and a 73 per cent increase in the number of calls about divorce.

The firm saw the highest volume of helpline calls in November 2021, around the time the Omicron variant of Covid-19 emerged. The number of calls almost doubled to 1,159, up from 584 in November 2020, and also increased 16 per cent on the month before. 

However, around the same time – during October and November 2021 – the data showed calls associated with work-related stress dramatically dropped, which Zurich UK attributed to the end of furlough and the transitioning of more employees back to their workplace.

However, Alper Yurder, UK country manager at Witco, said that while lockdown was a stressful experience for many, employers still needed to acknowledge returning to the workplace could also be stressful.

“It is essential that managers communicate openly and sensibly with their teams about the stress or feelings of discombobulation they themselves will be feeling at times,” he said.

He added that while informal one-to-ones with line managers and social events were helpful, there would be “no quick fixes”.