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Is the work stress epidemic all in the mind?

Workers throughout the UK are being asked to give their views on the ups and downs of working life in an important national survey.

The researchers behind the 24-7 survey into working life, hope employees in the UK will share their good and bad experiences in an attempt to discover more information about the true nature of modern working life, through a special survey launched on Thursday September 28th 2006 which will be available for completion until mid November.

The 24-7 survey is an annual research project conducted by the Work Life Balance Centre, Leicestershire; Keele University in Staffordshire and Coventry University, Warwickshire. Those wishing to have their say on a variety of work related issues from attitudes to work, legislation, pubic policy and personal health and can do so by logging on to a dedicated web site at All information collected is strictly confidential.

Julie Hurst, director of the Work Life Balance Centre said: “There is some debate at present as to whether poor work life balance is a major headache for British business or a modern fad that finds problems where they do not actually exist. We hope that people will complete the survey and give us their views on a variety of issues to help shed some light on the true position. Last year’s survey found that tired workers were making mistakes that cost money, compromise safety and even put lives at risk through a catalogue of mistakes. These included road traffic accidents, medical mishaps, and workers being contaminated with dangerous chemicals."

Among the other findings were:

- More than half of those responding enjoyed the challenges of their jobs and made sure work did not dominate their whole life.

- More than 8 in 10 workers felt they could not cope with the demands made of them at least some of the time.

- More than half of respondents felt that they had suffered ill health as a result of stress at work.

- Increasing the amount of control people had over their working life helped reduce illness levels.

- Around a third of people enjoyed their home and work lives equally.

- Almost half of all respondents identified better communication between management and staff as the key factor that would improve work life balance.

Steve French, Lecturer in Industrial Relations, Keele University said: “We know that there are many problems associated with the stress of high workloads, while at the same time many people enjoy the role work plays in their lives. We want to highlight examples of good practice in the workplace for making the most of the positive aspects of work and also mitigating against the negative. The survey has an important role to play in informing future policy in this regard.”

The survey is divided into a number of sections covering a range of topics from demographic data through to health, lifestyle, national policy and legislation, and new questions have been included this year to give greater insight and understanding of the issues associated in achieving a work life balance. The questionnaire takes only a few minutes to complete and is anonymous so all data is completely confidential.

Each year the results are collated into a final report which is disseminated to around 3,000 companies, universities, business support organisations and other workplaces all over the world as a basis for tackling the problems associated with poor work life balance.

Denise Skinner, Professor of Human Resource Management at Coventry University explained: "Many people feel that the cost of sickness absence caused by work related stress represents one of the biggest commercial and industrial challenges we face and that modern polices do little to help. Others feel that the problem has been exaggerated. By asking people for their first hand experience of their own working lives and about the interplay between work and family life we want to draw up a fuller picture of what is really happening.”

Chris Stone | alfa
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