How does summer drastically increase stress levels within the workplace?

During the summer season, almost half of the UK workforce suffer from workplace stress and anxiety.

New research by health and wellbeing provider, Westfield Health, shows that 48 per cent of all UK employees are suffering with chronic workplace stress or ‘burnout’ during the overly pressurised summer months.

Detailed in their second wellbeing index report, the last three months have seen the average employee take off four days because of anxiety, depression or stress. This rise in mental health issues has not gone unnoticed by HR professionals with almost 60 per cent (57 per cent) observing colleagues suffering from burnout.

This rise in workplace stress is in accordance with an increase in ‘leavism’, defined as working during non-paid hours or annual leave.

Over a third (36 per cent) of UK employees feel as though their bosses expect them to be on standby during annual leave. Under a fifth (17 per cent) of employees admit to actively thinking about work throughout the entire duration of their annual leave.  Since April 2019, overtime has increased by 23 per cent.

This surge in working after hours may be linked to employees feeling they have heavy workloads. Over a third (37 per cent) of HR professionals say their workplace does not do enough to adjust for low numbers of staff over summer.

This is causing significant problems for employee wellbeing. Fewer than half of UK employees (43 per cent) say they have spent quality time with family in the past three months and 23 per cent describe their mental health as ‘poor’. Physical health has also taken a hit with only 36 per cent stating they had been physically active.

Children was also a main reason for concern amongst employees as 60 per cent admitted they had increased childcare responsibilities during the summer break and a third of employees worried that they did not have enough disposable income to keep their children entertained whilst off from school.

Mark Verstegen, founder and president of EXOS, a human performance company, said:

Whether physiological or psychological, stress creates heightened demand on the brain and body which can accumulate and lead to fatigue, injury and a decline in performance. A consistent recovery routine helps build resilience to stress so you can bounce back quickly when it hits.

David Capper, CEO of  Westfield Health, said:

When thinking about how to avoid burnout and prioritise recovery time in the workplace, it can be tempting to just look at initiatives such as flexible working. But the answer also lies in workplace culture – there’s limited benefit in implementing strict rules on leavism if senior leaders aren’t visibly living and prioritising those values.

Cultural change takes time and requires input from people across the organisation. When employees see leaders practicing what they preach, it creates the psychological permission to mirror that behaviour.

Creating an open culture also allows employees to speak openly about how they’re feeling, allowing managers to identify issues early and avoid a situation escalating to burnout.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.