Should stress be a 'way of life'?

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For many organisations, Mental Health Awareness Week (14-18 May) will pass by unacknowledged. Some will simply be far too busy to stop and even identify that such a thing exists. Others may dismiss it as being of little relevance to them. And there will unfortunately be those who choose to ignore the initiative, because they know that, in truth, wellness levels in their organisation are far from ideal.

Regardless of the category that HR managers most feel they fall into, Mental Health Awareness Week is important. There are several striking statistics on the website of the charity Mind – approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year, for example, and whilst this hasn’t changed significantly in recent times, the narrative goes on to say that it is becoming harder for people to cope.

Mental wellness should therefore be a priority for organisations throughout the country.

But there’s more. We (Cascade HR) recently conducted a survey, for instance, in which it was revealed that 4 out of 5 respondents believe stress has become ‘a way of life’. Stress in itself is not necessarily the problem, but when that stress becomes chronic – as it appears to be for 80% of people – it risks jeopardising their psychological state.

This then leads to potentially devastating health consequences, as well as an impact on colleagues and the wider business.

In the same study, 62% of people claimed that during the past 12 months, they’d been off work for a period of one week or more due to stress. Workload (68%), colleague behaviour (47%), juggling work and family pressures (40%) and management style (39%) were the biggest contributing factors.

These issues may not always be entirely avoidable, but employers surely have a duty of care to assess whether anything can be done about them?

Some people may ask why this is their problem? Beyond it – ethically – being the right thing to do, there is the glaringly obvious commercial argument to consider. Stress-induced illness will affect morale, engagement and productivity, not just of the individual(s) concerned, but their co-workers too. The cost of any consequential stress-related absences could also be difficult to swallow, which perhaps highlights why stress levels are a concern for 64% of respondents with HR and/or management responsibilities.

Encouragingly, 61% of total survey respondents feel they could speak up at work if they started to feel stressed and 40% believe their employer is taking enough proactive steps to protect their mental wellness. But 39% do not have this faith.

Only 18% of HR and management participants said mental wellness is a workplace priority, but 58% agreed it is crucial so efforts will be ramped up.

This is not to say that employers and their HR teams need to assume all of the responsibility. Society is said to have a large impact on stress for 61% of people, which suggests individuals need to also develop their own mechanisms to protect their wellbeing levels. Switching off after work (27%), seeking colleague support (26%) and listening to music (13%) came out top as the most helpful resolutions, in the study.

But wouldn’t it be great if conversation got louder about stress? Yes, some people overuse the word and yes, some degree of stress is inevitable. But we each need to do more to prevent it escalating to the point it becomes a mental wellness concern.

To view the findings of the research in full, please visit

About Katie Mallinson_Cascade HR


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