For employees, For employers

How to combat stress in the workplace

Previous research has found that work related stress costs the economy approximately £6.5bn a year. A new study by Preventative Medicine revealed that working in a stressful job for 15 years can significantly increase the risk of illness. But how do we tackle this?

What defines stress and why does it happen?

Stress is the way a body reacts to a challenge or problem and it can manifest itself in very different ways. It is not necessarily limited to a large work load or unhappy environment; although these are contributing factors. Time pressures, long hours, job security and long commutes are all factors that can cause stress amongst employees.

Research has found that these factors can impact an employee’s overall mental wellbeing and have an effect on energy, drive and productivity. An organisation’s culture and environment and are equally responsible so employee happiness is key.


Working in a stressful job for 15 years increases the risk of five forms of cancer


What does recent research say?

Working in a stressful job can put more than just an individual’s blood pressure at risk. An employee’s overall mental wellbeing will impact an organisation’s culture, environment and productivity in a drastic manner.

A recent study by Preventative Medicine reports that significant links were found to stomach, lung, colon, rectal and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. However, researchers from Quebec University measured the link of this and how prevalent it is in men.

High workload and time pressures are two factors of stress mentioned, yet these aren’t the only ones. Job insecurity, financial problems and dealing with customers are other factors listed by the participants. In addition to these, others include dangerous working conditions, interpersonal conflict, commute and employee supervision.

The most stressful jobs included:

  • Industrial engineer
  • Firefighter
  • Aerospace engineer
  • Mechanical foreman
  • Railway equipment worker


How can this lead to illness and what can be done?

Well, researchers believe that those working under high stress levels may start smoking, overeating or consuming alcohol – all of which are known risk factors to lead to cancer.
Now there are two ways this can change:

The best employees will leave to find a less stressful job.

The organisation creates a happier environment where employees can manage better.

  1. Build happy relationships: Being more sociable with colleagues and managers can quickly relieve stress and help to initiate positive relationships. Improving communication across the workforce is a great listening tool.
  2. Eat healthy: Food choices can make or break how someone feels day-to-day. Ensuring sugar levels are managed is a good place to start. Avoid nicotine and have caffeine and alcohol in moderation.
  3. Help to create a fun culture: If employees see their managers or seniors acting in a calm and rational manner, they will automatically feel more at ease. Ensure management is consistent.
  4. Prioritise: Ensure workload is organised and prioritised to allow employees time to manage better. Aim to have a balanced schedule and plan regular breaks.
  5. Sleep better and exercise: Ensure that employees are managing their time well enough to commit themselves to other activities and are not pressured by work. An employee who is getting enough sleep and activity is more likely to be engaged and productive.

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- By Hannah Sims, editor at Perkbox.

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