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Work-life balance programmes are reducing staff stress

Research from Britain’s Healthiest Company shows UK companies are waking up to the importance of managing employee stress – but more can be done


The study highlights that corporate work-life balance programmes are the most effective at reducing stress at work, with 71% of employees who tried them saying they were of benefit. But while over 70% of companies surveyed are offering at least one initiative designed to tackle stress, just one third (34%) offer separate work-life balance programmes.

The results also show there is a clear disconnect between the availability of work-life balance programmes and their use by staff. Of the 41 companies offering this type of programme, on average only 8% of employees use them.

Almost three quarters (73%) of respondents to Britain’s Healthiest Company are suffering from at least one dimension of work-related stress. The survey signals that time pressure is the most common stress factor followed by employees not being consulted about change at work, and a lack of choice about tasks done at work. Around 60% of respondents said their job made organising their life outside of work difficult and more than a third (36%) said they worked in excess of 40 hours per week; both factors which reduce work-life balance and contribute to stress.

Despite these findings, the research demonstrates UK employers are aware of the importance of work-life balance:

·      50% of employees surveyed said they were able to work flexible hours.
·      More than 50% were able to work from home.
·      Many of Britain’s Healthiest Company awards winners offer flexible working, including Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Sweaty Betty and Old Mutual.

Other work-life balance initiatives offered by some of the winners include:

·      Enhanced shared parental leave
·      Paid study time and paid exam leave
·      Long-service annual leave awards and
·      Buying and selling holiday

Along with an increase in flexible working, organisations are also including stress management modules into management training courses with the aim of creating an environment in which employees can tell their manager if they are not coping with their workload.  

Britain’s Healthiest Company is a collaboration between VitalityHealth, Mercer, and The Sunday Telegraph. University of Cambridge and RAND Europe are academic partners, responsible for the survey design, data collection and analysis. This year, Britain’s Healthiest Company surveyed 32,538 employees from 112 companies of varying sizes across the UK.