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Work-related stress leading to employee physical pain

A majority (82%) of UK workers have said they suffer from physical pain due to their stress levels at work, according to new research.

A report from digital payment provider Equals Money found 88% of office workers suffer from some form of physical pain while at work. 

Most (90%) respondents said they feel stressed at work, and 18% said they were stressed “all the time.”

Leading causes of this stress included work overload (56%), lack of communication (31%), and bad management (28%).

Lou Campbell, programme director of employee mental health company Wellbeing Partners, said the findings highlight the toll of stress at work.

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Speaking to HR magazine, she said: "Burnout from excessive work-related stress can lead to both physical and mental health issues. Inflammation is a particular side effect of chronic stress

“Providing employees with an in-house team of fully qualified wellbeing counsellors is what progressive employers are doing. Prevention of ill-health is much more cost effective than remedy for illness, and is also the right thing to do for employees' wellbeing."

The majority (88%) of office workers suffer from some form of physical pain at work, such as back, neck or joint pain. Meanwhile, over a third (36%) claim that pain distracts them from their job.

The findings have implications for sickness absence and employee retention as 60% of employees said workplace stress had caused them to take time off, while three quarters (76%) of respondents said workplace stress has made them want to look for a new job.

Nicola Hemmings, head of workplace psychology at mental healthcare provider Koa Health said prolonged stress will have a damaging impact on productivity, morale and employee retention. 

Speaking to HR magazine, Hemmings said: “While stress, in short bursts, can increase the productivity of certain individual tasks, prolonged stress has a damaging effect on a team’s collective creativity and productivity, which in turn has a knock-on impact on company performance.”  

Employers need to make support available to employees at all levels, she said, adding: “I urge employers to provide comprehensive support for mental health, accessed at an individual level, supported at the team level and role modelled by leaders to help mitigate employee stress.”

The research was conducted by Equals Money and 3Gem in February 2023 and surveyed 1,500 office workers, aged 18-65.