Two in five workers have daily battle with ‘slow poison’ of chronic stress, report finds

But experts highlight shift towards wellbeing becoming ‘critical’ part of businesses’ infrastructure as younger employees put mental health before remuneration

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Two in five (38 per cent) workers say they are experiencing chronic stress every day, according to a new report by Walking on Earth (WONE).

Employees also do not have enough time to care for their mental health, with three quarters (76 per cent) saying they have less than two hours a week to dedicate to their health and wellbeing, the survey of 1,000 employees found. 

Overall, the report found that three quarters (74 per cent) were looking for wellbeing solutions to help them manage stress at work.

Dannielle Haig, business psychologist and founder of DH Consulting, told People Management: “Chronic stress acts as a slow poison, seeping into various aspects of an individual’s health.

“Physically, it can lead to conditions like hypertension [high blood pressure] and weakened immunity. Psychologically, it’s a significant precursor to anxiety, depression and a state of burnout that can leave employees feeling drained and disengaged.”

Stress can also result in presenteeism, where employees are “physically present but mentally checked out”, as well as hampering productivity and causing increased absenteeism and high staff turnover, Haig explained. 

Gen Z workers were less likely to say they felt their mental wellbeing was supported by their company (reported by 52 per cent of these workers), which was lower than the average of 67 per cent across all employees surveyed.

The report highlighted the growing influence of Gen Z in the workplace, which is set to make up 27 per cent of the workforce by 2025, according to the World Economic Forum.

“The youngest members of the workforce have experienced several generation-defining events that have shaped their view of work and the workplace,” said Gethin Nadin, chief innovation officer at Benefex.

“Their openness to discuss mental health and their unwillingness to put work before their wellbeing have also been driving significant shifts in their attitudes to what kind of stress support employers should be offering. 

“Workplace stress relief isn’t just about employee wellbeing, it’s about organisational success.”

Reeva Misra, founder and CEO of WONE, agreed, telling People Management that Gen Z workers were placing a “disproportionately greater weight” on mental wellbeing over financial remunerations than other age groups, and were calling for a shift in wellbeing from just being a perk to becoming “part of the critical infrastructure of a company’s work design”.

“While older generations may have suffered in silence, younger generations will simply leave if their health is compromised, and the retention of a future workforce is a clear need that must be met,” Misra said. 

Shreeta Gidwani, senior clinical psychologist at Changing Minds, and Andrew Rogers, consultant clinical psychologist, said there should be “a level of insight, understanding and acceptance by those in leadership and senior people management roles – with a commitment to getting the ‘dose’ right of challenge and support, alongside promoting positive wellbeing”.

They added that employers need to establish a robust “assessment and monitoring process” to create a considered wellbeing strategy.

Steve Herbert, wellbeing and benefits director at Partners&, told People Management that businesses should look to train mental health first aiders or within larger companies create support groups for employees struggling with similar issues.

He said: “The bottom line is that there is no silver bullet to supporting workplace mental health and it is therefore a case of building a suite of support functions to help the employee with any given stress or mental health challenge should it arise.”

Click here to read the CIPD’s manager guide on managing stress at work