Employee being stressed at work

You’re stressing me out the door: 78% of workers would quit due to high stress

  • 78% of employees say high levels of stress would influence them to leave their current job
  • Less than half (49%) of employees agree their employer has the right support in place for their mental health
  • 57% of respondents stated that the implementation of health and wellbeing schemes would positively influence their decision to remain with their current employer

Research from leading employee benefits provider Unum UK warns that almost 8 in 10 UK employees say they’d be influenced to leave their current job due to high levels of stress, so employers face losing talent if they don’t adequately manage the issue. Stress ranked just 1% below salary (79%) as the primary factor influencing UK employees’ decisions to quit their jobs.

The survey, carried out by WPI Economics, highlights the role stress can play in employee turnover against a backdrop of Great Britain’s economy losing 17.1 million days of sickness absence to work-related stress, depression and anxiety in 2023.1

Not only would workplace stress influence many employees to seek another job, the study also identified a concerning gap in employer support for mental health. Less than half (49%) of employees agreed that their organisation has the necessary practices and services in place to effectively support their mental health.

Encouragingly though, 57% of respondents stated that the implementation of health and wellbeing schemes would positively influence their decision to remain with their current employer. With high-quality mental health support services to help manage stress, employers could address concerns from employees who’d be tempted to head for the exit over poorly managed workplace stress. This could also reduce the millions of working days lost to work-related mental ill health, keeping those people in work or supporting employees back into the workforce at a pace that suits them.

Liz Walker, COO at Unum UK, comments:

“Many employers have already recognised the need to support their staff as part of their wellbeing strategies. Indeed, data from Help@hand,  the health and wellbeing app from Unum, shows that anxiety, depression and stress accounted for 76% of mental health appointments last year alone.

It’s concerning enough to find that, without proper prevention and intervention in place, nearly 80% of the UK’s 30.4 million employees say workplace stress would influence them to seek another job. To then discover that work-related stress, depression and anxiety together account for almost half of work-related sickness absence is far worse.

“There’s still work to do for some employers, including introducing high-quality proactive measures to address and support workplace stress and overall mental health. By creating positive, supportive and inclusive working environments, employers can not only improve employee retention but also help foster a healthier, more engaged and productive workforce.”

In line with Stress Awareness month in April 2024, Unum is supporting the theme this year of ‘little by little, a little becomes a lot’ emphasizing the importance of small, consistent and manageable changes and activities that can build to have a bigger benefit to wellbeing over time.

Liz Walker has provided five practical tips for identifying workplace stress and providing holistic support to employees:

  1. If workers start acting differently, it can be a sign they are stressed. For example, they may take more time off, exhibit mood swings or a loss a motivation, commitment and confidence. Upskill line managers so they can spot the signs of stress, be a sympathetic ear for employees experiencing it and know how to react to nip the problem in the bud. Try Unum’s free, CPD-accredited online learning e-module on stress awareness
  2. Businesses should focus their efforts on carrying out a risk assessment to identify the main potential causes of stress and implement measures to reduce or eradicate them.
  3. We recommend encouraging employees facing workplace stress to do a ‘Wellness Action Plan’ to help them think about what’s causing them stress as well as open up channels of communication with their line manager. This can open the door to support they need such as flexible working or workload adjustments.
  4. Develop a supportive workplace culture where colleagues can openly talk about their struggles with stress or other aspects of mental health. Get the conversation started and begin to break down the stigma to create a psychologically safe space for people to share their concerns.
  5. In addition to confidential counselling services and 24/7 helplines, Employee Assistance Programmes can provide a huge range of tools and resources. This includes valuable support to help employees navigate through tough times such as articles, videos and self-assessment quizzes, all designed to promote mental wellbeing and coping strategies.

1  https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/assets/docs/hssh2223.pdf

* Help@hand is a digital, value-added service provided to Unum Limited (“Unum”) by Square Health Limited which connects employees of Unum customers to third party specialists who can help manage their, and their families’, health and wellbeing. Access is facilitated by Unum at no cost to the Unum customer and with no increase in premium. However, employees will be liable for charges for medication and delivery, referral letters and private fit notes. Unum may withdraw or change this service at any time. The service is entirely separate to the Unum insurance policy and is subject to the terms and conditions of the relevant third-party specialists. Unum will not receive any payment or commission from Square Health Limited arising from any employee involvement with Help@hand. Available to UK residents only.

Square Health Limited is registered in England and Wales under company number 07054181 and has its registered office at Crown House, William Street, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 1AT.