ACAS Publish Workplace Stress and Anxiety Report and Poll Results

Health & Safety

ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) has published a new Workplace Stress and Anxiety report containing results of a new poll.

ACAS was set up by the Government to provide impartial information and advice to employers and workers on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law plus a conciliation service to resolve workplace problems.

ACAS state that their Workplace Policy aims to help inform and influence the debate on a range of critical employment, industrial and economic issues through its relationships with key stakeholders throughout government and across industry, covering everything including mental health. 

Key findings

  • Two-thirds of employees (66%) have felt stressed and/or anxious about work in the last 12 months, with particular variation by age – 76% for those under the age of 35, compared to 54% for those aged 55 and over
  • Less than 1-in-10 (8%) say their organisation is ‘very good’ at preventing employees from feeling stressed and/or anxious about work
  • The most commonly cited cause of stress and/or anxiety for employees is their workload (60%), followed by the way they are managed (42%) and balancing home and work life (35%)
  • Employees who feel stressed tend to take time out to manage it, such as having a cup of tea or going for a walk (41%). More than a quarter (28%) don’t do anything, and the same proportion use annual leave, with far fewer (15%) opting to take sick leave
  • A third (33%) of employees think that ‘a reduced workload’ would help with feeling less stressed and/or anxious, followed by ‘better flexible working opportunities’ (26%) and ‘more clarity around what is required from me for my job role’ (23%)
  • Less than half (43%) of employees would talk to their manager in the event of being stressed and/or anxious at work, and more than one-in-five (22%) would not talk to anyone at work
  • A large majority (72%) of employees think that it is a manager’s role to recognise and address stress and anxiety in the workplace; 60% said the same of an individual themselves; 31% think their colleagues; and 28% said HR

In October 2017, the government published its review of mental health and employers, ‘Thriving at work’. The authors, Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer, set out a vision that by 2027, “employees in all types of employment will have “good work”, which contributes positively to their mental health, our society and our economy” and achieving this is based upon having the right tools, raising awareness and building confidence.

In September 2018, ACAS published a ‘Framework for Positive Mental Health at Work’ which reflects both the “core” and “enhanced mental health standards” set out in the Stevenson/Farmer review, including the importance of “good working conditions”, “effective people management”, and “open conversations about mental health”. The ACAS approach is built on the engagement of all workplace players.

Against the backdrop of a high-level vision for mental health, ACAS commissioned a YouGov poll to find out more about individuals’ current experience of mental wellbeing at work, specifically what are the causes and reactions to stress and anxiety in the workplace.

CWU National Health and Safety Officer Dave Joyce welcomed the Report which further reiterates the findings of a series of reports and surveys on work stress, anxiety and mental health issues connected to the impact of work in the UK today. Dave said “The findings show that less than 1 in 10 workers say that their employers are ‘very good’ at preventing them from feeling stressed and anxious about work and less than  half would talk to their own manager if they had a problem. Many ‘don’t do anything’ and it’s in these cases that things deteriorate affecting their wellbeing and lives are then in danger in some cases. There needs to be a stigma free commitment from employers within strategies to support individuals in need, ensuring they can manage and cope better at work and in life generally”. 

Link to LTB and the Full Report:

LTB365/19 – ACAS Stress and Anxiety at Work Survey Report 2019