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Working flat out and feeling fed up

Millions of UK workers are likely to be suffering from depression and panic attacks because they are so stressed out by their jobs.

This is one of the key findings of the latest 24-7 survey - a national research project conducted by the Work Life Balance Centre, Leicestershire, UK, and the universities of Keele, Coventry and Wolverhampton.

The internet-based poll has found that two thirds of respondents had been made ill by work, with 48% of these suffering from depression, and 43% suffering from anxiety or panic attacks.

Among the other findings were:

·Eight in 10 people have a problem juggling the competing demands of work and home.

·Eight in 10 workers feel that at times they cannot cope with the demands placed upon them.

·Women (69.6%) were even more likely to feel this way than men (63%) although both figures have increased in the last 12 months.

·Many people work over their contracted hours (one in 10 does a minimum of 49 hours a week, while only one in 100 is contracted to do so). Most do so to keep up with their workloads.

·More than half of workers find their daily commute adds to the stress of their day.

·Stressed workers were 9 times more likely to make a mistake at work.

·A third of employees resent the hours they work, and more than a quarter miss family and social occasions for work.

·One in five do not see as much of their children as they would like, feel their marriage or partnership has been damaged by work and are left too tired for sex.

On a positive note more than half of workers ensure work does not dominate their lives, feel more fulfilled when busy and enjoyed the challenges of their jobs. Despite the higher stress levels, women generally feel more positive about work than men. Almost three quarters of bosses are sympathetic to time off or changes to work schedules to help deal with family or caring responsibilities.

The survey was divided into a number of sections covering a range of topics from demographic data through to health, lifestyle, national policy and legislation. Some 3,300 workers took part this year and the findings of the survey will now be distributed all over the world to help companies and other organisations formulate better policies and practices for their workforces. After March 22nd the report will be freely available for download from

Julie Hurst, director of the Work Life Balance Centre said: “Our relationship with work continues to be a complex one. One the one hand people have reported many positives about enjoying their jobs. At the same time however the levels of depression and anxiety have been increasing. Depression and anxiety have become a silent epidemic in the workplace and yet there is so much that can be done to reduce both problems. I would urge all employers to look carefully at these issues and arrange access to the appropriate forms of help, as it is in the long term interests of the business to support healthy, and ultimately productive, employees. At the most basic level having employees absent through these illnesses costs an organisation far more than it does to provide the proper support to help them get back on their feet and back to work. And that is without even considering the humanitarian case.”

Denise Skinner, Professor of Human Resource Management at Coventry University explained: “Without doubt the report demonstrates that stressed and ill employees can cost companies a great deal in terms of sickness absence and errors made. At the same time there are high levels of positivity and goodwill towards the role of work in our lives, although these are gradually reducing. There seems little sense in allowing this to continue to be eroded when much can be done to tap into it for the benefit of all concerned. The 24-7 report contains many suggestions to improve matters and so makes important reading for directors and workers alike.”

Steve French, Lecturer in Industrial Relations, Keele University said: “Everyone has a role to play in helping to alleviate the problems highlighted in the report. Workers, managers and government must all come together to make a difference. Making some of the solutions put forward in the report more widely available will go a long way towards this, as will greater awareness of good practice and current legislation.”

Julie Hurst | alfa
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