WHAT ARE THE ISSUES SURROUNDING MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE?”
Remember it’s a Key QUESTION. If the Examiner asks you what it is, don’t write “Stress”. “Stress” isn’t a question. Questions have question marks at the end and start with a word like “what”.
The exam may ask you to “summarise” your Key Question. This means giving some of the information below.
FEATURES OF STRESS IN THE WORKPLACE
“Features” means facts about your Key Issue – what forms does it takes, what types are there? (You’re not talking any Psychology here. It’s general knowledge really.) Later you can explain the biological psychology behind the idea of the stress response
According to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), in 2015/16 over 480,000 people in the UK reported that work-related stress was making them ill - over 11 million days are lost at work every year due to stress. This amounts to nearly 40% of all work-related illness.
Stress is defined as the 'adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them' - Health & Safety Executive (HSE)
Workers benefit from pressure in their work - it's motivating and produces ambition - but when there is too much pressure, workers become overloaded. Stress can lead to anxiety and depression and increase the risk of heart disease, back pain, gastrointestinal illnesses or skin conditions.
The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) has identified the six causes of work-related stress:
SICK BUILDING SYNDROME
Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a set of symptoms linked to working in an unhealthy environment. The NHS lists these symptoms:
SBS was first noticed in the 1970s and classified as a problem by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1986. A series of studies in Sweden linked SBS to allergies and suggested that modern buildings with air conditioning systems exposed workers to chemicals that had harmful long-term effects. Women seem to suffer from SBS more than men, but it's not clear if women are just more likely to report the symptoms.
However, Marmot et al. (2005) suggest that the cause is more likely to be psycho-social than environmental.
Azuma et al. (2014) link specific work-related stressors with specific SBS symptoms:
[We] don’t really know whether it’s the building or it’s the people - Alan Hedge
Long article from The Independent which interviews sufferers and considers whether SBS is a valid diagnosis or not
COMPUTER SCREENS MAKE YOU SICK
Spending just five hours a day in front of a computer increases the risk of depression and insomnia, according to Nakazawa et al. (2002). This study involved 25,000 people over a 3-year period and concluded that too much screen time is damaging the mental health of employees.
Staff at a large Japanese IT company complained of feeling depressed, anxious and reluctant to get up for work in the mornings. Many reported problems getting along with fellow workers and experienced broken sleep and daytime fatigue.
... the prevention of mental disorders and sleep disorders requires the restriction of computer use to less than five hours a day - Dr Tetsuya Nakazawa
Previous research focused on how computers affect physical health (e.g. sitting at terminals has been linked with repetitive strain injury, eyestrain and back pain).
Researchers suggest the effects of computers at work might be due to:
Bullying makes someone feel intimidated or offended. Examples of bullying behaviour include:
Bullying itself isn’t against the law, but harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010. Harassment is when the bullying behaviour is related to age, sex, disability, gender, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and sexual orientation.
According to a YouGov Poll, 29% of people have been the victims of workplace bullying - that's nearly 3 in every 10 workers or 9.1 million of the UK workforce. In November 2015, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitrary Service (Acas) reported that their helpline receives 20,000 phone calls every year in relation to bullying. Acas claims that bullying at work costs the UK economy £18 billion a year (a combination of sickness-related absences, staff turnover and lowered productivity).
Cyber-bullying is any form of abuse that uses technology to harass a person, such as social media, email and SMS texts. According to UNISON, 80% of workers had experienced some form of cyber-bullying with nearly one in five people facing cyber-abuse at least once a week. Because mobile technology is always 'on' this means that victims often get no break from the abuse - even outside of work hours.
WELLBEING AT WORK
Companies are becoming more aware of stress and poor mental health at work. They are countering this by promoting "Wellbeing"
Wellbeing can be understood as how people feel and how they function, both on a personal and a social level, and how they evaluate their lives as a whole - New Economics Foundation
Wellbeing can be measured using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (WEMWBS). This is a questionnaire of 14 positively worded items, such as ‘I’ve been feeling optimistic about the future’ and ‘I’ve been interested in new things’. Respondents choose the answer that best describes their experience over the last two weeks, using a five point scale: this leads to a score between 14 and 70, with a higher score indicating better wellbeing.
In 2017, nearly half (48 per cent) of UK businesses offered something to promote wellbeing in the workplace. Examples include:
APPLYING PSYCHOLOGY TO THE KEY QUESTION