It’s often perceived that living and working in London is higher paced and stressful, but a major survey has identified that Welsh residents are the most stressed workers in Britain.

Looking at the levels of stress in different UK regions, the Perkbox 2020 Workplace Stress Survey saw 43% of Welsh residents report that they face workplace stress on a weekly basis, compared to only 8% in Scotland and 26% in London.  There was no difference between genders, and both sets of respondents were equally stressed.

Stress is not ‘just’ a mental health issue, which is independently worthy of seeking treatment, it can affect our physical health.  Frequent stress increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma and can aggravate other physical problems, so it shouldn’t be viewed as trivial.

These findings should sound a warning bell to Welsh employers, who at the very least should ensure they are aware of and communicate any mental health provisions in their EAP.  EAPs are increasing their mental health provisions, but as an employer  you could consider offering individual support via online counselling services such as BetterHelp, which is confidential and has more than 11,000 licensed counsellors.

Employers are responsible for the general safety and wellbeing of their employees while they are at work, and the law requires an employer to carry out risk assessments to identify hazards, including stress – therefore if an employee raises stress as an issue, the employer has a responsibility to listen to your concerns.

However, the fear of taking that step and reaching out to your manager can feel like a mountain for many, who either feel their manager won’t understand or they believe their manager is the problem.

If, as an employee, you aren’t sure whether or not to speak up, it is important to recognise that you are stressed – and take action, even if it is only self-help.  Try these tips:

  • Set boundaries – often workplace stress results from taking on too much and not saying no. If deadlines are unreasonable, ask for an extension and explain why you need more time.  If you feel victimised by your manager, consider speaking to another manager or to HR
  • Keep work and home life separate, even if you work from home. Home workers and self-employed people often struggle with stress when juggling a home life and work life from the same room.  Small changes can help. Try to find a quiet, separate place to work, be strict on hours and make a clear distinction between your personal and professional life.  If you have to work in the room you spend your private life in, award winning CEO Coach Peter Ryding suggests going out of the back door and walking back in through the front to make a ‘mental separation’, or you could play different background music when you are working to create a ‘time to work’ routine.
  • Use apps – if you are comfortable with technology, apps like de-stressify usually offer a free option to keep a log of your stress as well as exercises and suggestions to calm your frayed nerves. You can also find lots of soothing meditations on You Tube, and the BetterHelp website offers self-help tips and useful articles on managing stress.
  • If your stress is truly out of control, and you are struggling to cope then see your GP. They may be able to sign you off work to give your stress levels chance to reset.
  • Alternatively you could talk to a counsellor privately – since COVID 19 it’s become easier than ever to access help for stress. Online counselling allows you to sit wherever you feel comfortable and avoids the need to travel. Licensed counsellors work in confidence and will not discuss what you say with your GP or Employer (even if the Employer is paying for the sessions) and your treatment will be completely confidential.

The overwhelming message is that mental health is important, and nobody should feel that experiencing work-related stress on a weekly basis is normal.  The research shows Wales is in many ways struggling with an always-on mentality – it’s time we prioritised our own mental health.

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