Hard on the heels of an Institute of Directors report describing claims that the UK has a "long hours culture" and was full of "overworked workaholics" as "urban myths", new research has found that more than half of senior managers in the UK feel that stress is having a serious effect on the productivity levels of their organisations.
Research by Croner, a leading supplier of business information, questioned 100 organisations representing a cross-section of British businesses. It reveals that two thirds of employers believe that the stress is having an adverse affect on their workforce, with over half saying that it was affecting productivity. No one sector was disproportionately affected.
Richard Smith, training manager at Croner, said that stress is often seen as part of modern culture or employee weakness.
“In fact, employers have a legal obligation to ensure employees are not made ill by their work.
“But stress is still costing business, causing high staff turnover, a demotivated workforce, increased sickness and absence, poor performance and an increase in customer complaints,” he said.
Further evidence of the UK’s long hours culture comes in figures complied by employment law firm Peninsula. These reveal that company bosses are commonly working 50-hour weeks, with those in London putting in 54-hour weeks on average, an increase of ten hours on the same figure in 1993.
While the IoD last week characterised those calling for better work-life balance as “subliminally anti-business” and “hell-bent on demonising the workplace”, the toll that stress and long hours takes on individuals is highlighted by a separate survey from the Natwest bank - hardly the most anti-business of organisations.
The Natwest research has also found that eight out of ten women and six out of ten men said that their nights are often punctuated by dreams about work.
Disturbingly, more than six out of ten women and four out of ten men said that they actually woke up in a cold sweat dreaming about work problems.
The Natwest results also echo the findings of a recent report by the Work Foundation that found that working women face particular problems because they often have to juggle a disproportionate burden of household chores as well as their careers.
Londoners are the least likely to take their work troubles home with them because they have more distractions on their doorstep to provide a buffer between work and their home lives. Those living in the West Country and Wales find their home lives most disrupted by employment woes.
Stress related illness is estimated to cost the UK economy as much as £4 billion a year in absence alone.