“Extremely Damaging” work stress causes Brits to drink, smoke and be lazy
Stress in the workplace could be shortening your life, a survey by the British Heart Foundation has found. Job pressures lead people to smoke more, drink more, eat unhealthily and exercise less, posing serious health problems that could contribute to heart disease.
A third of British workers have said they had put on weight because of their job, mainly through diet and lifestyle. With many in the UK putting in longer hours, this is understandable to some degree. However this increased and in some cases excessive workload culture serves to stretch NHS resources to the very brink and puts employers in a difficult situation both in practical terms and from a legal perspective.
This pattern of unhealthy lifestyle, that could eventually trigger serious conditions such as heart disease, means that employers should be increasingly more willing to send employees to Occupational Health. This is something they may often be reluctant to do for fear of time off and therefore a decreased workforce.
These referrals, coupled with a compliance with Occupational Health Report Recommendations that relate to the employee, will allow management to show they have discharged their duty of care towards their employee should they face legal action. In turn employees should register to their managers promptly whenever they realise that their health is being negatively affected by their work and lifestyle.
This will compel the employer to take reasonable action to negate the harm suffered by their employee. A good referral practice will in turn mean quicker detection rates for harm suffered, meaning the employee’s health will be monitored at any early stage before mental or physical damage has occurred.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has said that “Employers need to do more to identify and reduce risks and to provide support to employees struggling to cope.”
Employers ultimately have limited influence in how an individual employee chooses to lad their lifestyle, healthily or unhealthily. However, they will still have to be observant and practical when they realise that an individual’s health is being affected by stress. Proof of this Employer knowledge is the most difficult hurdle for a Claimant to satisfy in a stress at work negligence claim.
There is still arguably a lack of awareness in society of the strain on the economy and NHS deriving from Workplace Stress. While the dangers of alcohol abuse, smoking and obesity are well documented in the media, the psychiatric bearing of Stress is not always recognised as a catalyst for poor health through a poor lifestyle.
However, slowly there are increasing signs that the UK Government is placing importance on preserving mental health, with an emphasis particularly on young people such as Suicide awareness groups and helplines for example.
As this British Heart Foundation survey points out, more recognition should be given to the prominence of workplace stress and the ramifications it can bring. Comedian Robert Wringham states that “The solution is to slow down. We should either get organised and campaign for better working conditions or simply rebel.”
The reality is however that many people find it incredibly difficult to defy their superiors by slowing down or rebelling, for fear of a backlash that could affect their very position and employment. Consequently, the cycle of stress continues until a minority break down due to stress and possibly consider legal action against their employer to compensate for any psychiatric injury suffered.
In order to give themselves a chance of legal redress for stress at work, it is vital that individual employees communicate that their health is suffering as a direct result of pressures and stress at work. Trying to persevere is a natural instinct and people may do this in different ways, some resorting to alcohol abuse for example. However ultimately alcohol is a depressant and this form of lifestyle choice will only serve to exacerbate any mental injury and increase the chances of depression.
Although stress is not in itself a medically recognised condition, it is certainly recognised as a catalyst or contributing factor for the development of psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety. Stress can also serve as a vehicle for physical problems such as obesity and heart disease, as the lifestyle of some people deteriorates due to pressure at work.
Awareness of the significance of work related stress will be vital for employers (and ultimately society) in managing and maintaining a healthy workforce long term. Only then can measures be implemented that will negate this increasingly prominent issue in the workplace.