AIB Stress at Work

Stress at Work: Statistics, Impact, and Issues

Stress, anxiety, and depression make up much of work-related sickness, according to Health and Safety Executive (HSE, 2015). HSE is a regulatory board for workplace health in Great Britain.

In addition, statistics from HSE reflect that these mental health factors account for 9.9 million absent days due to sickness in 2014-2015. It translates to roughly 23 days lost per person. In short, stress and other related factors comprise a total of 35 percent of all days missed from work due to ill health.

The industries which reported the highest cases of work-related stress include health, social care, education, public administration, and defense.

The Mental Health Foundation, a United Kingdom-based charity which campaigns for good mental health, says that 12 million adults consult with them each year due to these mental illnesses. With stress being a top factor, while one out of six experience anxiety (MHF, 2014). A survey conducted by YouGov (2012) found that 48 percent of British workers said that they were stresses most of the time, with 47 percent of them citing performance issues as the main factor that drags them down.

Workload pressure, interpersonal relationships, bullying, harassment, difficulty with superiors, work changes and responsibilities, and resource reduction are some of the main causes of workplace stress.

Workplace Stress and Anxiety Impact

Stress and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. However, stress will most likely go away when stressors are cut down. While with anxiety it may persist even without external causes.

Stress contributes to high staff turnover and low morale.

According to Kumar and Clark (2012), anxiety may be associated with depression. For this reason, people who have low psychological resources are more likely to be affected by these issues when stress increases.

Spiraling Work Absences – A Case Study

Often times, when colleagues are absent, those present have to take up the mantle for a day or two. As a consequence, this could lead to a domino effect where co-workers may start to feel stressed due to the additional responsibilities.

A curious case study in Norman, a 22-year-old part time receptionist and administrative staff. He experienced nausea, sleep difficulty, restlessness, loss of appetite and vomiting, caused by anxiety of attending work.

Essentially, Norman felt extremely anxious to return to the same situation every day.

In the past, Norman was generally efficient at his role. As he and his colleague alternated reception duties and tasks. However, talking to strangers during reception would be challenging.

However, upon the resignation of his colleague, who found the role too stressful, his workload has increased. Financial constraints of the company left the position vacant, which essentially doubled Norman’s responsibilities.

This compounded by the fact that Norman has had a medical history of difficulty in standing for long periods of time, led to frequent stress and discomfort.

He discussed his work issues with the manager. Since then he undertaken a revised work regime which reduced his work load and constantly and slowly increased it to cope up with weekly meetings with the manager to check performance and adjustment. Regrettably,  Norman has noted that he should have talked about his issues at an earlier stage.

According to Waddell and Burton (2006), early interventions in the workplace are much more effective in reducing long-term sickness absence and high workplace morale.

Norman’s case is a modern yet classic case study of how lack of control and excessive demands can negatively affect health. Workplace health can be improved by the simple act of conversing with higher ups.


Health and Safety Executive (2015). Stress-related and psychological disorders in Great Britain (2014). Available online

Kumar P and Clark M (2012). Clinical Medicine, 8th edition, Edinburgh, Saunders Elsevier.

YouGov (2012). Stress Survey. Available online.

Mental Health Foundation (2014). Mental Health Statistics Available online. Accessed 17 April 2016.