Work it out

There are lots of different attitudes to work. Confucius is credited with saying, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” That’s all very well of course, once you have mastered the skills and have managed to create that job. At the other end of the scale is Robert Frost who observed, “By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be the boss and work twelve hours a day.” Mind you, Confucius’ riposte to Master Frost might have been that if you love what you do then twelve hours is a blessing. So what is the truth about work for the 21st century person…is Confucius or Frost? According to the a new survey conducted by Mind, a mental health charity in the UK, it’s not all good news re work but the answers to the problem might be relatively simple.

The survey of more than 2000 people revealed that work is the single most stressful factor in people’s lives and that the implications for both the individual and the business are massive.

Some of the findings of the study are very disturbing. For a start 34 per cent of people said that their work was either quite stressful or very stressful. That is more than the 30 per cent who said financial problems were their greatest source of stress. Most disturbingly seven per cent of people said they had considered suicide as a result of workplace stress and for 18 to 24 year olds that figure increased to ten per cent. Additionally, 18 per cent said workplace stress caused them anxiety, 57 per cent said they drink alcohol after work to cope (or not cope) with the stress, and 14 per cent consume alcohol during work to try to deal with it.

Further findings from the survey showed that 19 per cent of people took a sick day because of stress but 90 per cent of them gave other reasons for their absence. This lack of disclosure could have real repercussions for business because 9 per cent said they had resigned from a job due to stress and a further 25 per cent said they had thought about it. Add those two figures together and you have more than one in three workers contemplating leaving a job due to stress. This is compounded by 19 per cent feeling they can’t tell their boss about the problem.

According to the researchers the remedies for this issue that is eating at the heart of the modern workplace are not that hard to achieve. Research done by Mind shows that flexible working hours and generous annual leave does a lot to support mental wellbeing. On top of that 60 per cent of workers say they feel more loyal, motivated, and committed when their workplace takes action to support their mental wellbeing.

In the end, it might help to reduce whatever stress you feel in your work to think of the words of Mother Teresa, substituting in there whatever you conceive God to be: “There is always the danger that we may work for the sake of work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in – that we do it to God, to Christ, and that’s why we try to do it as beautifully as possible.” Now there’s an aspiration; whatever your work, to make it a beautiful experience and expression.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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