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In the US, workplace stress is thought to contribute to 120,000 deaths each year and cost up to US$190 billion in healthcare costs, according to a study on relationship between workplace stress and health costs.
Despite the huge financial and productivity loss, enterprises are doing little to help employees blow off steam.
Research from Aware, found that half of Irish businesses consider stress and mental health a priority in their workplace, yet 84% do not have a policy or wellness programme in place.
The research also revealed that the management in one in ten companies are currently concerned about the mental health of a work colleague. The concern is more prevalent among management of larger companies, one in seven, and those working in the public sector, one in six.
The issue of not having sufficient wellness programmes in place is a key concern, especially because stress levels in Hong Kong soaring among employees.
According to a research by Regus at the beginning of this year, 66% of Hong Kong professionals highlighted working from another location was a good stress reliever. Unreliable/obsolete technology (26%), and lack of exercise and unhealthy eating (25%) were the other top contributors of high stress levels in professionals in Hong Kong.
Damian Rhodes Managing Director at head hunter Focus Core Group said stress levels can be high in Hong Kong in organisations where there is a culture of working late rather than efficiently. “For examples some employees believe that they cannot leave work before their boss, even if they have completed their tasks and if they are not working efficiently,” he said.
A certain amount of stress can be manageable but employers can help stop excessive stress by encouraging people to take reasonable breaks, promoting fitness, train staff in time management to avoid working excessive hours and to build a culture of trust and transparency, advised Rhodes.
Such a culture could be useful, especially since employees might be reluctant to discuss mental health issues with their bosses.
The research by Aware revealed that employees are far more likely to open up about work related (55%), financial (48%) or physical health issues (31%) to their bosses than mental health with only 18% of employers said they have been approached about a personal mental health issue.
Commenting on the findings Dominic Layden, Aware CEO, said that mental health is a key issue in the workplace.
“Majority of senior managers working in Ireland have at some point been concerned about the well-being of a colleague. There can be a real fear about how best to tackle the issue; Aware wants companies to understand that prioritising wellness at work has benefits for all,” he said.
“Technology can be used to make work more efficient and ensure greater work-life balance. Unrealistic or unknown expectations are another cause of stress and so manager should give specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely targets to ensure greater focus. Employers should also have a zero tolerance policy towards harassment and bullying which can cause untold damage,” he added.