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2018 UK Workplace Stress Survey

The 2018 UK Workplace Stress Survey

Executive Summary

  • Work is the most common cause of stress for UK adults, with 59% experiencing it.
  • Just 9% say they ‘never’ experience work-related stress, while only 12% consider the levels of work-related stress they experience as ‘low’.
  • One in five (21%) UK workers experience moderate to high levels of work-related stress several times per week.
  • Long working hours (21%) are the most common cause of work-related stress, followed by concerns about work performance – both workers’ own (13%) and that of others, such as junior members of staff (14%), customers or client satisfaction levels (11%) and office politics (9%).
  • Higher earners (i.e. those earning more than £40,000) are the most likely to experience work-related stress – 72%.
  • 46% of people experience family stress, 45% undergo money-related stress, 38% face health-related stress, and 35% encounter stress from relationships.
  • Sleep loss (65%) is the most prevalent impact that stress has on UK adults, followed by experiencing anxiety (47%), disrupted concentration (37%), comfort eating (35%) and being less productive at work (32%).
  • 25% struggle to be as productive at work as they normally would be when experiencing stress, while almost the same number (22%) report feeling disengaged with their work as a result
  • More than one in 10 say that stress causes them to take sick days from work.
  • Just 3% report that stress makes them feel more engaged with their work than normal, while only slightly more (5%) believe they are more effective as a result
  • Stress has a tangible impact on the vast majority of UK adults (81%)
  • 83% actively reduce stress, mainly through exercise (33%), talking to friends/family (28%), and sleeping (27%).
  • 45% of UK workers report their workplace lacking measures to reduce stress and enhance mental well-being.
  • Workers often cite flexi-time (21%), remote work options (18%), and organizing social events (12%) as the primary ways their employers help alleviate stress.
  • Only 8% provide counseling services, 6% offer stress management/resilience training, and 9% schedule regular one-on-ones with managers.


Today, mental health is one of the biggest HR issues faced by UK employers, and it is by no means going away – according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)’s latest Labour Force Survey*, 49% of all working days lost in 2016-2017 were reported as being due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. This figure is the highest this survey has reported in almost a decade (since 2007/2008) – and except for 2014/2015, this number has been steadily increasing since 2009, despite the term ‘stress’ having been coined as recently as the 1950s.
As this highlights, how successfully workers can manage not only work-related stress but also that which originates at home or in their personal lives, can have a huge impact on businesses’ productivity and staff retention – and in turn, profitability and stability. The management of it is something that should be on the agendas of C-suite-level discussions around the country. To assess the scale of the problem in 2018 and provide some guidance for employers looking to identify those workers most at risk of unhealthy levels of stress, we surveyed more than 3,000 British workers aged 18+**, to provide a true snapshot of the UK’s stress hotspots
We did this not only in terms of geographical location but also in terms of work departments, industries and levels of experience. We hope that the findings prove beneficial for your company’s HR strategy, and we welcome any thoughts or feedback you may have.

Chieu Cao, co-founder and chief marketing officer (CMO) at Perkbox

*The Labour Force Survey (LFS), November 2017 
**Surveys commissioned by Perkbox between 30th November – 4th December 2017 and 16th – 17th January 2018

What types of stress are the most prevalent in the UK?

For those British adults in employment, work is overwhelmingly the most common cause of stress, with 59% of those experiencing this.
In fact, just 9% say that they ‘never’ experienced work-related stress, while only 12% rate the level to which they experience this as ‘low’.
Sadly, many will go on to experience stress long after they’ve finished the working day.
Family was the second most common source of stress for British workers – almost one in two (46%) commonly experience this.
And – perhaps unsurprisingly given its proximity to work – almost the same number (45%) experience this as a result of money and financial issues.
Health was a common stressor for 38%, while relationships played on the minds of a loved one for 35%.
Women were far more likely to experience family stress than men – with 51% saying these types of concerns play on their minds, compared to 40% of men.
They were also more likely to feel stress as a result of worries about their health than their male counterparts (42% vs. 35%).

Family was the second most common source of stress for British workers – almost one in two (46%) commonly experience this.


Who are the most stressed people in Britain and where are they?

According to the data, the most stressed worker in the UK is a 25–34 year old male living in Cardiff, Wales.
Men are significantly more likely to report experiencing work-related stress than women, with half of male respondents (50%) confessing this was the case, compared with more than one in three (38%) females.
The question of the impact age and experience can have on stress management was raised by the survey findings, as they highlighted a very clear decline in the levels of stress experienced as workers age, starting from the 25-34-year-old demographic and continuing all the way through to approaching retirement (55+).
High levels of work stress were experienced fairly broadly throughout the UK – with workers in Welsh cities (Cardiff – 70%), the Midlands (Wolverhampton – 64% and Coventry – 57%), the South East (Oxford – 55% and London – 59%) and the North West (55%) reporting the most extreme cases.
Interestingly, workers residing in cities within the Midlands and the South East dominated the list of the top 10 UK stress heat spots, and only one Northern city and one Scottish city appeared within this.

The top 10 industries most likely to experience work stress:

How do stress levels vary according to the type of company and position an employee is working in?

The research revealed some especially interesting data about how the size of the company an employee works for relates to how likely they are to experience stress.
Despite margins often being tighter and tensions or losses often being felt more keenly in smaller businesses, the research shows that the level of occupational stress workers tend to feel directly correlates to the size of the business they are employed by.
Microbusinesses employing a maximum of four members of staff had the lowest instances (45%) of workers reporting job-related stress of companies of any other size.
This figure increased to 57% for small businesses possessing between five and 50 members of staff – and again to 62% for small to medium-sized organisations with between 51 and 500 employees. Finally, the largest-sized businesses – those with more than 500 members of staff – reported the greatest instances of staff experiencing workplace stress, with 65%.
In terms of departments, high-pressure sales workers were unsurprisingly the most likely to experience work-related stress, with 79% confessing that they suffered from this.
Interestingly, human resources departments also scored extremely highly for job stress, with 76% of workers in this type of role saying they experience this.

IT workers were third most likely to report instances of stress, with 65%.

Surprisingly, senior management only just snuck into the top five workers with the most stressed-out job functions – indeed 64% of senior managers report experiencing work stress.
Workers within highly pressured marketing, PR, and communications roles rounded off the top five.

What are the main causes of work-related stress for the average employee?

As we have seen, work is the single biggest cause of stress for the UK population, and for as many as one in five (21%), this is experienced several times throughout the working week. A further one in 10 (12%) report feeling stressed as a result of their job as often as once per week.
While individuals and workplaces differ, some clear parallels emerge in respondents’ reasons. The data indicates that feeling overworked, with 21% citing long hours as the primary cause, is a prevalent factor.
More than one in 10 (13%) cited that their performance at work caused them stress – suggesting many experience stress in the workplace that is fuelled by insecurity, a lack of confidence or even perfectionist thought processes.
A conscientious 11% reported that it was the satisfaction levels of their company’s customers and clients that made them feel this way. Meanwhile, unfortunately, it was office politics and disputes directly relating to work caused by those immediately around them – such as superiors and colleagues – which caused stress for 9%.

One in 10 (12%) report feeling stressed as a result of their job as often as once per week.

Which aspects of work are stress triggers for different types of workers?

A diverse workforce is not only well-rounded but effective – but having employees from a multitude of age groups, experience levels, locations, and in different salary brackets and departments can make it difficult to identify which stressors are affecting workers. In this case, it is important to consider several factors, including not only situational aspects – such as position, industry, and company size – but also more human aspects – such as gender and age.


While many of the causes of stress in the workplace were cited by both genders, some stressors proved to be more problematic for one than the other. For example, 17% more men than women complained that long working hours caused them grief in their jobs Similarly, 12% more women than men said that they sometimes experienced stress relating to the performances of others they work with.

The most common causes of work-related stress (by gender):


Lower earners – i.e. those on a salary of between £10,000-£19,000 – were the most likely to cite concerns about their performances and long working hours, which is perhaps not surprising for a demographic that is likely to be trying to prove themselves and climb the career ladder.


As workers age, the data reveals that personal performance at work becomes less of a stressor. This suggests that with increasing experience, workers gain confidence in their abilities. Indeed, while 26% of 18-24 year olds cited this, just 9% of those aged 55-64 did so.

How does stress impact the UK workforce?

It is not surprising that, overall, losing sleep is the single biggest effect that stress has on British workers (65%).
While the significant toll this can take on both physical and mental well-being should be a big concern for employers, there are also several other ways in which UK workers find themselves affected by stress in the working week which business leaders and managers should be aware of.
For example, in some companies, there may be a belief that a little stress can be motivating, and even cause workers to ‘wake up’, providing a greater sense of drive and urgency which could ultimately result in greater productivity –however, for the most part, respondents felt that for them, the opposite was true.
As many as 25% of respondents felt their work productivity suffered when stressed, but the actual number of workers facing this reality was minimal.

It is not surprising that, overall, losing sleep is the single biggest effect that stress has on British workers (65%).

Just 3% report that stress makes them feel more engaged with their work than normal, while only slightly more (5%) believe they are more effective as a result.

More than one in 10 say that stress can cause them to completely down tools and take a sick day from work – resulting in a total loss of productivity for the day.

How effectively do workers themselves manage their stress levels?

Although employers’ approaches to employee wellbeing and company culture can play a huge role in the level of stress experienced by members of staff in the workplace, effective stress management does ultimately have to begin with the individual as – without effective coping strategies – the majority of measures will make little difference.
The good news is that the majority of workers – 87% – actively take measures to alleviate their stress.
Long-term stress which goes unresolved can have a detrimental impact on the health of workers. Indeed, one in 10 (10%) workers admit that they will lose weight as a result of stress, while almost one in five (18%) admitted that they will turn to stimulants (including caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol) to manage stress.
Unmanaged stress can also lead to rash decisions. As many as 7% say they will look for a new job as a way to escape from the stress they are experiencing.
Those employers wanting to make a marked difference in the stress levels of even these kinds of workers do have options – stress management and resilience training can be great, preventative measures that can have long-lasting benefits.
Wellness schemes offering stress-relieving activities like yoga, Tai Chi, mindfulness classes, or spa vouchers can casually promote healthier coping mechanisms for employees who may not actively manage their mental health.

The good news is that the majority of workers – 87% – actively take measures to alleviate their stress.

Which industries are the best and worst at managing their stress levels?

However, there are some industries where a passive approach to stress management is more prevalent. For example, just 9% of workers in the financial services industry, which the data shows is the most likely to report experiencing job-related stress, say that they would discuss their stress levels with a superior at work.
In fact, 13% of the entire UK workforce will not do anything whatsoever to manage their stress levels and unfortunately, this passive approach is more common in certain industries than others.
As many as one in four (25%) workers in the travel sector claim that they do not take any steps whatsoever to reduce their stress levels.
And worryingly as many as one in five (21%) employees within local or national Government say this is the case. Those in the utility industry were the third most likely to admit to doing nothing to manage the stress they experienced (18%). While just 15% of those in the high-pressure financial services industry said they did nothing.

One in 10 professionals in sectors like accountancy and law, as well as the agricultural, forestry, and fishing industries, also adopt a passive approach to alleviating stress.

One in four (25%) workers in the travel sector admit to taking no steps at all to reduce their stress levels.

How many companies put in place measures to assist workers with managing their stress?

Encouragingly, over half (55%) of workers report that their company has measures in place to help their staff manage and reduce stress levels and improve mental well-being.
But this still means that despite the significant impact these things can have on productivity, absenteeism, and staff health, almost one in every two British employees (45%) are working for businesses that do not have anything in place to help with this.
While a maximum cap on working hours or an overtime ban was uncommon among the bosses of the survey respondents, many employers were close. The most popular stress management provision among UK bosses was offering flexible working opportunities.
As many as one in five (21%) allow their workers to do this. And nearly the same number (18%) allow staff the opportunity to work from home.
While not a cure-all for workplace stress, these measures provide staff the chance to ‘escape’ from the mentally straining environment and ease the impact on personal lives. This includes fulfilling commitments like childcare through more flexible working hours.

More than one in 10 (12%) organizations focus their efforts on alleviating staff stress by organizing events that build workers’ social networks, such as team-building events and nights out.

However, while moral support is beneficial, employers should be careful to avoid these kinds of functions being centered around alcohol – not least because almost one in five (18%) workers admit that stress causes them to use stimulants, with men 10% more likely to do so than women.
While these more logistical and even softer stress management provisions can be useful, the data highlighted a gap in the number of businesses that are tackling the problem of workplace stress head-on, through tried and tested clinical methods.
Only 8% of surveyed employees currently work for a company offering counseling services, and merely 6% state their workplace provides stress management and/or stress resilience training.
And as few as 9% arrange regular one-to-ones between employees and their managers.
Scheduled meetings offer an opportunity to address employee stress levels related to workplace performance, a concern often overlooked by the majority of UK businesses.

Which types of companies prioritize managing workers’ stress levels the most?

According to the research, employers in the travel industry are the most likely to offer workers company-sponsored methods of managing their stress levels, with 87% of employees in this sector saying that their employer does this.
Considering this industry may involve shift work, as seen with pilots, air hostesses, and hotel staff, which has been scientifically proven to increase stress levels, this is somewhat relieving.
However, the travel industry is not alone in this.
Indeed, 82% of those in the utilities sector say their boss does this. Information and communications employers (75%) were the third most likely to provide supportive services and measures for stressed-out staff.
Fortunately, 72% of employees in the financial services industry, which also had the highest proportion of stressed workers, engaged in stress-alleviating activities.

Fortunately, 72% of employees in the financial services industry, which also had the highest proportion of stressed workers, actively participated in stress-alleviating activities.

Almost the same number (71%) of employees in local and national Governments said their bosses supported them in this way.
Media (15%), education (14%), and local or national government (13%) employers are most likely to address stress by providing stress management and resilience training.

Staff counseling services are most common in the utilities (27%), travel (25%), and finance (17%) industries.
More than 1 in 10 (11%) finance workers can take mental health days, staying home for emotional well-being. Workers in hospitality (64%), leisure (63%), transport (55%), trades (54%), and health and education (45%) sectors are most likely to report receiving no assistance in alleviating stress at their workplaces.


Stress remains a major contributor to poor mental health, low productivity, and absenteeism in the UK workforce. Recent data indicates that this epidemic is on the rise.

Over 60+ years, public awareness and attitudes toward workplace stress have grown and become more accepting.

UK businesses must implement measures to safeguard company cultures, staff morale, and commercial success.

The research pinpoints mental health concerns: extended working hours, performance management, and workers’ confidence.

Forward-thinking employers can take obvious measures to improve overall stress levels in their workforces.
Businesses aiming to curb poor mental health and stress must recognize work’s impact, identify those in need, and implement safeguards. This ensures a happier, more productive, and profitable workforce.