The conciliation service ACAS has produced a new report showing that two thirds of workers in the UK have felt stressed or anxious about work over the last year.

The most common reasons given for workers reporting stress or anxiety included workloads (60 per cent), the way that they were managed (42 per cent) and balancing home and work lives (35 per cent).

The study also found that seven out of ten employees believed it was a line manager's role to recognise and address stress or anxiety at work but only two fifths said that they would talk to their manager about it, indicating that many people felt unable to have these conversations with their managers or chose to struggle alone.

A third (33 per cent) of employees think that “a reduced workload” would help with feeling less stressed and/or anxious, followed by “better flexible working opportunities” (26 per cent) and “more clarity around what is required from me for my job role” (23 per cent).

As a result of the survey, ACAS has produced a framework for positive mental health at work, which outlines the roles that employers, managers and their staff can play to help make it happen.

The advice suggests that employers should lead on a wellbeing strategy at work; managers should be trained and supported to have the necessary confidence and knowledge in managing mental health; and workers should identify personal stress triggers, supporting colleagues and asking for help when needed.

ACAS has also produced advice on managing anxiety at work which it defines as a feeling of worry, fear, nervousness or unease about something. It may be caused by issues in the workplace, such as workload, performance or conflict with colleagues. Outside the workplace, factors such as relationship, family or debt problems can create anxiety.

Likewise, it has produced advice on handling stress at work, which it defines as the “adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them.” Stress can affect the health of staff, reduce their productivity and lead to performance issues. 

ACAS commissioned YouGov to ask 2,000 employees in Great Britain about their experiences of stress and anxiety in the workplace. The survey was carried out online earlier this year.

David Robinson, of Thompsons Solicitors, said: “The report from ACAS is welcomed as it recognises such a serious issue which can have a profound and long-lasting impact on individuals and their families. It is important that employers continue to strive to breakdown the once taboo subject of “stress” and to actively encourage open conversations in relation to it. Employers owe a duty of care to its employees and it must not, by its practices, operate a workplace which puts employees’ mental health at risk. Stress and anxiety at work cannot be brushed under the carpet and individuals who are suffering should be given access to early support.”

The ACAS advice on mental health in the workplace can be found here.