Does Work-Related Stress Affect My Mental Health?
According to the World Health Organisation, the average adult spends one third of their life at work, although this might seem like an underestimation for many who tend to work much longer than the typical 9-5. It is perhaps unsurprising therefore that work-related stress can be one of the biggest contributors to poor mental health, particularly for those struggling to maintain boundaries while working from home.
In some cases, stress can be as debilitating as a physical injury and can make pre-existing mental health conditions far worse when left undiagnosed. This is particularly apparent within the construction industry, where according to a study published in 2016, workmen are six times as likely to die from suicide than from a fall or accident. Government statistics show that in the UK, work-related stress amounts to over half (57%) of working days lost to ill health. This alone indicates that tackling work-related stress, and the potential mental health consequences it causes, is not just essential for the well-being of employees, but also for the success and profitability of the business itself, which is why it is increasingly being tackled head on by employers. Lawfully, businesses and employers have a responsibility to their workforce to assess the risk of work-related stress and to put steps in place to confront these issues and evidently, it is in their interest to do so. Across the construction industry especially, work-related stress is often linked to sustaining physical injury and as such, rigorous health and safety training is essential to not only keep employees safe, but to ensure that they feel comfortable and confident in the workplace and on site.
On the first Wednesday in November, National Stress Awareness Day encourages businesses to place work-related stress at the forefront of everyone’s mind. The day is promoted by the International Stress Management Association (ISMAUK) with the purpose of raising awareness of psychological distress in the workplace and the mental health first aid training to combat it.
This National Stress Awareness Day, check in with your colleagues and friends. Work might be particularly stressful at the moment, following the uncertainty and chaos of a year set against the backdrop of the Coronavirus pandemic, and individuals who are usually stress-free and relaxed might be working under a newly found pressure. Work-related stress can also relate to the anxiety or fear of losing a job and since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK in March of this year, this dread has become far more tangible and real to a lot of people. Thankfully, a number of charities are working hard to combat the rise in mental ill-health since the start of the pandemic. Mates in Mind is a charity specifically committed to supporting positive mental health in the workplace and work-related stress is, as demonstrated, a widespread manifestation of this. You can read more about Mates in Mind’s recent campaigns to help those now working from home here. Similarly, the Light House Club provides crisis resources and much needed valuable support to those in greatest need across the construction industry.
Regardless of the industry you work in, it is vital to know that there are resources and support systems available to you. No one should feel unable to ask for help when they are in need. National Stress Awareness Day could be the prompt someone needs to open up about their mental health and this contribution to the wider conversation surrounding mental health awareness could be more important now than ever.
 ‘Global strategy on occupational health for all: The way to health at work’, World Health Organisation, <https://www.who.int/occupational_health/publications/globstrategy/en/index2.html> [08/09/20].
 ‘Suicide kills more construction workers than falls’, PBC Today, < https://www.pbctoday.co.uk/news/hr-skills-news/suicide-kills-construction-workers-falls/25401/> [12/10/20].
 ‘Talking Toolkit: Preventing Work-Related Stress’, Health and Safety Executive Government Agency, <https://www.hse.gov.uk/STRESS/assets/docs/stress-talking-toolkit.pdf> [08/09/20].