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Stressed Britannia

November 2008 - Increasing workloads, concerns about job security, the ongoing impact of the credit crunch and a feeling of being under the spotlight are all contributing to a stressful working environment.

Over three quarters (83%) of British office workers, equivalent to around 24 million, reported being stressed at work in November 2008, with almost half (43%) citing increased workloads as being the primary cause of their anxiety. A quarter of workers (26%) told us that their workloads had increased by more than three hours a week in 2008.

The second most significant factor was the general economic situation with over a third (36%) saying it's causing them real concern. And it looks like there's going to be little relaxation in months to come with almost half (46%) saying they expected the credit crunch to last up to two years. An even more pessimistic 37% predicted a crunch lasting up to three years.

What are the possible reasons for your stress?

My workload is increasing 43%
The general economic situation 36%
People are leaving my company and not being replaced 31%
I don't feel secure in my job 26%
My family relies on my income 25%
My boss expects too much from me 23%
I have little confidence in my business leaders 23%
I'm not sure my company can survive in the current climate 13%
My personal performance is declining 12%

According to Penny Moyle, an expert in stress for workplace psychologists OPP, stressed workers can present a major headache for employers: "An important distinction needs to be made here between unhappy workers and stressed workers. The stress these figures reveal has a direct impact on people's performance and the ability of any employer to weather the economic storm. The danger is that as your people become increasingly stressed, they under-perform, become disengaged with the organisation and leave when the economy picks up again."

However, Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat MP for East Dumbartonshire, underlines the importance of good management in difficult times: "Stress in the workplace is a growing issue in the UK and one that needs to be addressed. Our country has one of the most intense working environments in the world - it's one of the reasons we've been able to be such an economic force throughout our history, but unless it's balanced with some sensible management, we could be in danger of burn-out on a wide scale."

Burn out or not, it's clear that the average British worker feels he or she is taking some of the brunt of the impact of the current economic climate on business. While the majority (58%) are prepared to stay put in the current roles and weather out the storm, according to Neil Wilson, managing director of Badenoch & Clark, employers who fail to recognise the impact on their workers now could suffer in the longer term: "We could see many companies lose their top talent as soon as workers see a way out, leaving bosses with a hefty talent crunch to replace the current credit crunch."