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Combat Stress At Work

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Stress - the facts & figures Why you need Stress management On site therapies The Benefits

  "a burnt out workforce is an unproductive workforce."

Elizabeth Gyngell, Head of HSE's Health Directorate.  


What is stress?

HSE defines stress as "the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them".

Pressure is part and parcel of all work and helps to keep us motivated. But excessive pressure can lead to stress which undermines performance, is costly to employers and can make people ill.

Why do we need to tackle stress?

HSE commissioned research has indicated that:

About half a million people in the UK experience work-related stress at a level they believe is making them ill;  
Up to 5 million people in the UK feel "very" or "extremely" stressed by their work; and  
Work-related stress costs society about �3.7 billion every year (at 1995/6 prices).  

HSE's key messages on stress are:

Work-related stress is a serious problem. Tackling it effectively can result in significant benefits for organisations.  
There are practical things organisations can do to prevent and control work-related stress.  
There are practical things organisations can do to prevent and control work-related stress.  

  Businesses are operating in an increasingly harsh and competitive environment. Many are living with very small margins and tight cash flows. Investors, suppliers and customers are taking an increasing interest in companies' health and safety performance as they recognise this directly impacts on the service they receive.

The HSE �Stress at Work: a guide for employers" states:

"Employers have a legal duty to take reasonable care to ensure that employees' health is not placed at risk through excessive and sustained levels of stress arising from the way work is organised, the way people deal with each other at work (management styles, harassment, etc) or from the day-to-day demands of work".

Research on workplace stress has concluded that the majority of UK businesses have a significant problem on their hands; the negative effects of stress are fast becoming one of the most critical factors affecting the well-being of employees in the workplace today.

Many UK businesses are now seeking inexpensive and convenient ways of combating the negative effects of stress 

Some of the facts & figures

In 1992 The Confederation of British Industry calculated that in the UK, 360 million working days are lost annually though sickness at a cost to organisations of �8billion. Overall, the CBI survey found that employees across all sectors were absent for an average of 7.1 days per annum at a cost of �476 per employee for sick leave. This cost British businesses �10.2 billion per annum with an estimated 200 million days lost through sickness absence.  
A 1996 report from the Institute of Management said that "an estimated 270,000 people take time off work every day because of work-related stress; this represents a cumulative cost in terms of sick pay, lost production and NHS charges of around �8 billion annually".  
The International Labour Organisation estimates that the cost of stress amounts to over 10% of Britain's Gross National Product.  
Stress related illnesses were the second most common cause of ill health at work, after back pain and musculo-skeletal problems. The most common causes of occupational stress, it said, were long hours, excessive workloads, a lack of control at work, and poor communication. (European Agency for Safety and Health at Work)  
Half a million people in the UK are suffering from work-related stress, anxiety and depression levels that make them ill. (HSE figures)  
Nine out of ten workers say that stress is a problem in their organisation, a survey by the Industrial Society found.  
The sharp rise in cases of work-related stress, up from 516 to 6,428 over the last year alone, has led to more compensation claims, and in some cases, six-figure payouts. (TUC stats)  
Research commissioned by the International Stress Management Association UK and Royal & Sun Alliance revealed that one in four workers saying they needed time off work as a result of work related stress. It also revealed that well over half of those questioned feel that stress is damaging their health, reducing their job satisfaction (65%) and lowering their productivity (41%).  
The HSE has reported that about 5 million workers describe their job as 'very stressful' and around half a million say they experience work-related stress at levels that they believe make them ill.  

In May 1995 the HSE published guidance on stress at work:

�Stress is recognised as a work place hazard that is both predictable &  preventable.�

Sources of stress identified by the HSE include providing a service to the public, poor health & safety, uncertainty, conflicts, high demands, inflexibility and lack of support. The HSE advises employers to treat stress the way they would any other workplace hazard. This means that they should assess the risks of stress, identify anyone suffering from it & take action to reduce or minimise the risks.


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