Stress is no laughing matter

May 02 2006 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Increased anger and loss of humour amongst people in the workplace are just two of the knock-on effects that businesses now have to deal with due to poor workplace health, according to new research.

The 'Quality of Working Life' report published by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and Workplace Health Connect uncovers a high number of physical and psychological symptoms and highlights the impact these have on business performance.

The survey questioned 1,541 managers in the UK revealing a poor picture of health, with only half believing they are currently in 'good' health.

Four out of 10 (43 per cent) admitted to feeling or becoming angry with others too easily and nearly a third (31 per cent) confessed to a loss of humour creating workplace pressures.

But as a 2003 survey by of 12,000 people across Europe found, bad management is the main reason that people to lose their temper at work. A lack of career opportunity was the second most common reason, cited by three out of ten people, while almost a quarter said that not being valued at work makes them angry.

Only seven per cent said that excessive workloads made them lose their tempers.

Other symptoms of poor workplace health uncovered by the CMI report include muscular tension or physical aches and pains, cited by more than half of those questioned (55 per cent), while 44 per cent said they experienced frequent headaches.

Asked about psychological symptoms, 55 per cent experienced feelings of constant tiredness at work and 57 per cent complained of insomnia.

The report also suggests that ill-health is having an impact on morale and performance. Almost a third (30 per cent) admit they are irritable 'sometimes or often' towards colleagues.

Some managers also say they want to avoid contact with other people (26 per cent) and one in five say they have difficulty making decisions due to ill health.

Mary Chapman, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, says: "With the impact of ill-health being keenly felt in the workplace, managers need a better understanding of the consequences of letting relatively minor symptoms escalate.

"They need to take more personal responsibility for improving their health because inaction is clearly having an effect on colleagues and the knock-on effect is that customer relationships will suffer, too."

Elizabeth Gyngell, programme director at Workplace Health Connect, agreed.

"Health activities should not be driven by a concern over legislation, but by the understanding that improved well-being can generate significant benefits to morale and performance. This means organisations should ensure their employees are well versed in identifying and addressing symptoms before they escalate."