UK workers are more likely to treat themselves when they feel stressed rather than tackle the root cause, research has revealed.
The Global Benefits Attitudes Study from Willis Towers Watson (WTW) found 69% of UK workers indulge themselves or use retail therapy to help them cope with stressful periods at work – but only 46% create a plan to tackle the source of the problem.
The findings are part of a wider picture, which shows that many workers appear to tackle stress on their own. More than two-thirds (67%) do physical activity, while 36% use relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises or meditation.
Only 28% seek help from a medical professional, a fifth (20%) will seek support from a manager, and just 16% use services provided by their employer or health benefits provider. Employees find it slightly easier to talk to those close to them, with 37% seeking support from family, friends or co-workers.
“Stress is a problem that too often goes untreated, partly because each individual has their own personal method for handling stress and partly because of the enduring stigma around issues related to mental health,” said Mike Blake, wellbeing lead for Willis Towers Watson.
“For too long, workers have been discouraged from discussing problems with colleagues or management and will often struggle on in silence even when they could benefit from targeted support. There is no easy answer for employers looking to take a proactive approach to stress management, as the root causes and appropriate solutions will vary depending on the individual. It is important, however, for them to promote a culture of openness and to signpost treatment pathways so that employees can take action to prevent stress from adversely affecting their health.”
The study found that stress can have a negative impact both at home and in the workplace – 43% of workers believe it has an adverse effect on relationships with family and friends, while 45% say it reduces the quality of their work.
“Differences in the impact of stress highlight the difficulty employers face in tackling it, as some staff simply do not see it as a problem, particularly when they experience it at lower levels. But in other cases, stress can result in increased sickness absence, reduced productivity and disengagement so it remains important to establish a framework that allows employees to report stress and helps them find a solution that suits their needs.”