15.4 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, anxiety or depression in the UK in 2017/18.

Stress at work can build slowly and creep up on you.

It’s different for everyone. For some, stress can develop simply from being in receipt of no instructions, or of unclear instructions, perhaps because of a lack of role clarification. Shifting goal posts can make an employee feel vulnerable and uneasy. It’s the not knowing. A lack of information can feel deliberate which can cause you to question everything.

For others, there is conflict between work and life outside of work. We all tell ourselves that our loved ones, our health and our well being come first, and often do so from behind our desks long after everyone else has left.

Stress at work, and extended working hours have been normalised. A sense of duty to a much respected manager, workplace culture of long working hours and the expectation of always being available all play their part. Others speak of imposter syndrome – am I really worthy of this position and this salary?, or perhaps the resources available to do the job are inadequate. All too often skills in managing people are lacking creating uncertainty and pressure without support and understanding.

Short periods of working under pressure to deliver a project, task or programme can feel stressful, but this usually has an end when the pressure valve opens. Stress happens when there is no release, when it is constant, when it’s impossible to escape, and when it’s impossible to find a balance.

Stress can lead to physical and mental ill health and it’s time to consider the impact of all employment policies and practices on stress, just as we do on physical health and safety. Wellbeing needs to be the golden thread rather than a standalone add on policy or box ticked.

MHFA England are calling on employers and MPs to pledge commitment to workplace wellbeing by supporting the #wheresyourheadat workplace manifesto – take a look at more information at wheresyourheadat.org

Stress at work can build slowly and creep up on you