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Thursday, 19 April, 2001, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Stress 'costs firms 3bn a year'
Office worker
Most companies do not recognise stress as a mental health problem
Stressed workers are costing British industry 3bn a year, says a mental health charity report.

Junior employees are suffering more "burn-out" than senior executives, says the report, but instead of tackling the problem many wear their stress as a "badge of honour".

The Mental Health Foundation has called on industry to act now to tackle stress.

Ruth Lesirge, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said business leaders had reacted very positively to the study.


We were pleasantly surprised at just how willing companies were to discuss the issue of stress

Ruth Lesirge, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation

"We were pleasantly surprised at just how willing companies were to discuss the issue of stress.

"The business world knows just how crucial this issue is, and the ways in which it may have a major impact on business.

"But their key requirement now is knowing where to start and how to tackle the problem of undue workplace stress."

Managing stress

The report "Burnt Out or Burning Bright" found most companies did not view stress as a mental health problem.

Senior executives agreed that employees, particularly junior staff, felt they had to hide their stress in case it adversely affected their work.

Junior staff were also often unable to recognise stress when it became unhealthy.

Managers however were more adept at managing their stress levels and made sure they put enough time aside to go the gym and wind down.

As well as taking its toll on staff, stress can also lead directly to business loosing cash.

Macho environments like the City are often hot-beds of stress and the high-profile nature of the job often means that the mistakes can cost large amounts of cash.

One businessman told how a stressed worker almost caused the collapse of a bank.

He said: "There was this chap - a trader. He was held up by the City as brilliant at his job.

"Made his company loads of money and was often a guest speaker at City events talking about why he was so successful.

"Went on for years like that, but behind the scenes he was loosing the company millions and millions. Nearly brought the bank down."

The report also found that new companies were often more aware of the problems of stress and discussed setting up external counselling, shiatsu massage, discount sports facilities and a quiet room to help relieve staff stress.

The businesses involved in the research called for a national campaign to tackle stress and an independent employee counselling service for firms employing more than 100 staff.

A spokesman for the Confederation of British Industries (CBI) admitted that stress does play a part in work absences.

He said: "In a CBI occupational survey 20% of members stated that mental ill health, which includes stress amongst other issues, was a cause of absence.

"Overall responses suggested a positive picture of the business approach, with a large majority of respondents offering some form of counselling.

"Raising awareness through publications such as the Mental Health Foundation report 'Burnt Out or Burning Bright?' is important in tackling this workplace challenge and sharing bets practice within the business community is an important step forward."

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See also:

30 Jan 01 | Health
'Most workers stressed'
26 Jul 00 | Health
Sterile offices 'causing stress'
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