Stress: IOSH poll finds its an issue for majority of workers

A recent poll conducted by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) found that the majority of workers experienced stress in their job, but over half would not feel comfortable asking for support in the workplace.

IOSH poll confirms that stress at work is an issue for the majority of workersIOSH conducted the snap social media poll to mark International Stress Awareness Week last week (30th October – 3rd November). The poll remained live for 3 days and received over 1,800 initial responses.

The leading health and safety body found that more than 8 in 10 respondents (84%) had felt stressed by their job in the last 12 months, but over half (54%) said they wouldn’t feel comfortable raising the issue at work.

They say the findings indicate that “stress has become a familiar aspect of today’s working life.”

More support needed for work-related stress

IOSH also says the poll illustrates that more work needs to be done to ensure that workers who feel stressed are able to raise the issue and seek support from their manager, employer and/or work colleagues.

Respondents to the poll seemed to agree that a low level of stress can be productive, but that it is when stress becomes overwhelming at work that it is an issue.

Although many talked of the need for “balance” at work, large numbers still felt unable to discuss their high stress levels with their employers, with some suggesting that their managers would also be uncomfortable talking about work-related stress.

One respondent suggested that many employers participated in “wellbeing washing,” without providing real support, stating that: “Not all managers feel comfortable helping a stressed employee and can become defensive about it, or will try to ignore it, despite the employer having a duty of care.”

Stress has negative impact on workers and businesses alike

Over half of workers who feel stressed say they wouldn't feel comfortable raising the issue at workIOSH agrees that some pressure at work can be healthy and help to boost productivity and motivation, but they warn that excessive pressure results in high levels of stress and this can have a negative impact on mental health and emotional wellbeing.

IOSH warns: “Prolonged exposure to work stressors can leave workers vulnerable to negative effects on health and wellbeing, causing illnesses ranging from headaches and gastrointestinal disorders through to depression and anxiety disorders, heart attacks and diabetes.”

As well as affecting workers on an individual level, work-related stress can also have negative impacts on businesses. These include:

  • Absenteeism
  • Presenteeism – when workers turn up for work to be seen as ‘present’ but are not able to perform their role properly
  • Higher accident and injury rates
  • Higher rates of early retirement
  • Reduced productivity
  • Reduced engagement

Deloitte estimates that poor mental health at work now costs UK employers up to £56 billion each year.

They explain that issues such as burnout, exhaustion, mental distance from the job, insecurities and uncertainty have all resulted in a rise in problems such as absenteeism, presenteeism and labour turnover.

Businesses can take steps to manage stress

Businesses can take simple steps to manage stress at work and support their employeesHowever, work-related stress is preventable, and businesses and organisations can take some simple, proactive steps to prevent, reduce and manage stress for their employees.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides a range of information and advice related to stress and mental health at work. This includes guidance for managers.

The HSE’s most recently published health and safety statistics confirm that stress is a leading issue for Britain’s workplaces.

Key figures for Great Britain for 2021-22 show that 1.8 million working people suffered from a work-related illness, of which more than half (51% or 914,000 workers) were due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. The figures also show that 17 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety that year.

Earlier this year, the HSE launched its Working Minds campaign to help employers and workers prevent work-related stress.

The campaign includes free resources such as posters, a podcast and an app. There’s also advice and guidance for employers and different sectorshelp for workers and information about supporting the campaign and becoming a Working Minds Champion.

Support mental health and wellbeing with training

It's important that employees are able to talk to managers about stress at workFirst Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider delivering courses in subjects such as health and safetyfirst aidfire safety, manual handling, food safetymental healthhealth and social care and more.

An accredited Mindful Employer themselves, FRT’s specialist mental health training courses include Understanding Mental HealthMental Health Awareness in the WorkplaceManaging StressAnxiety and Phobias AwarenessSelf-Harm Awareness and Suicide Awareness.

They can also provide qualified, approved trainers to deliver accredited Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training courses, including the Adult, Youth and Lite versions.

A trainer from FRT says:

“While stress is not recognised as a diagnosable mental health condition, it can lead to more serious mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, and can also have physiological effects.

“It’s important to recognise the severity of stress and to learn proactive and positive ways for managing, minimising and preventing stress, both in the workplace and in our personal lives. It’s also vital that organisations work to tackle work-related stress and support their employees when they experience stress.”

Helpful resources

brief summary of our mental health training can now be downloaded as an infographic.

We also have a number of other free infographics available to download which provide simple tips for helping to manage your mental and emotional wellbeing and proactively manage your stress levels. These include:

You can also download our free Guide to Mental Health Training from our website.

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to