Stress: The modern-day affliction of a business world
Since 2013, 33.9% of absence days in the financial services sector have been due to mental ill health. This compares to 24% of absence days in the retail sector and 22% in utilities, according to Chris Clarke, Chief executive of AdviserPlus. This is a shocking fact that is seriously affecting UK workers long term and doesn’t look like reducing any time soon.
In my experience with in the financial sector employees are working far longer hours, have increased stress levels due to the demands and responsibilities placed upon them. And for the junior less well-paid staff there are the effects of year on year reduced disposable income due to wages not keeping up with increased living costs.
Recently I had the pleasure of listening to a representative from the Bank of England give local businesses an over view of the state of the UK economy. What grabbed my attention wasn’t all the usual stats you might think but a chart plotting the increase in hours worked (due in part to more people in employment). This was in comparison to the national GDP but strikingly, productivity was almost flat lining. He and his colleagues offered their opinions as to why this could be but never mentioned employees or employee wellbeing. So longer hours worked doesn’t necessarily mean greater productivity, but can mean serious detriment to our health and wellbeing.
In Europe, the Greek’s work 43.7 hours per week compared to Germany’s 35.6 according to research by the ONS. UK falls somewhere in the middle within the EU. However, these figures also take account of the rapidly growing part-time workforce, 27% in the UK compared to 20% in the EU. So, in real terms the UK are at the top of the biggest economies, working the most hours in Europe, according to an article in the Guardian.
Longer working hours can encourage sleep deprivation which can actually cause brain cells to eat parts of the brain’s synapses, according to Italian research leader Michele Bellesi. These star-shaped brain cells are called astrocytes, and one of their jobs is to clean out worn-out cells. The study found that the astrocytes went into overdrive in sleep-deprived mice, so more of the brain’s connections were broken down.
In another study, participants who hadn’t had enough sleep became more angry and stressed when trying to complete a simple cognitive test than those who weren’t sleep deprived. Not getting enough sleep, it seems, also causes people to react more emotionally to negative stimuli and others stated that less sleep caused them to operate significantly under par.
According to research by the NHS, regular poor sleep also puts you at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes – and it shortens your life expectancy.
Here are 7 reasons why sleep is important:
- It boosts immunity
- It can slim you
- It boosts mental wellbeing
- It prevents diabetes
- It increases your sex drive
- It wards off heart disease
- It increases fertility
It is said that 1 in 3 British workers suffer sleep deprivation and 1 in 3 British workers suffer some form of emotional and mental distress which seriously impedes their mental wellbeing.
Kelly Feehan, service director at CABA, a charity that supports chartered accountants' wellbeing, told HR magazine that many employees are afraid to talk to their manager about their mental health and 32% of employees wouldn’t tell anyone at work if they felt they were suffering from stress, anxiety or depression.