We are a nation of stressed staff – eating lunch ‘al desko’ as well as working overtime, through holidays and even when we’re ill, according to new research.

The Big Work Survey of 2,000 UK working adults and 500 senior decision makers across Great Britain found businesses could be storing up ‘bigger problems down the line’ because 64 per cent of us admit to being stressed at work.

The research, conducted by YouGov on behalf of health insurance provider Westfield Health, found 82 per cent of employees had worked over their contractual hours in the last 12 months and nearly 90 per cent UK workers have done their job while not feeling their healthy best – with three-fifths (59 per cent) admitting they turned up despite being ill because of work commitments.

Westfield Health’s Executive Director Paul Shires, said: “There are certainly positive signs to be found in this survey, with the majority saying we like our jobs and 59 per cent of bosses rating staff health as ‘very important’. But it is shocking to hear more than a quarter of workers have cancelled holiday time because of work pressures.

“Equally, 89 per cent of employees are also guilty of ‘presenteeism’ – when people work even though they are unwell or have short or long-term untreated health conditions. This is increasingly being recognised as a contributor to lost productivity and potential health costs for employers, as a result of staff performing below par, feeling unmotivated or making errors due to illness.”

Nearly half of us (46 per cent) eat lunch at our desk/place of work – and 54 per cent don’t take breaks (other than lunch) on a typical day – with 29 per cent revealing they have even missed longer breaks by cancelling annual leave because of work commitments.

And our colleagues don’t always help reduce our stress levels, it seems, with the top three workers’ annoying habits rated as regular lateness, gossiping and loud talking.

Many of the businesses surveyed by Westfield Health and YouGov acknowledge stress as a problem in the workplace, with more than a quarter (26 per cent) saying it is a ‘common pressure’. But nearly all (95 per cent) believe workforce health is important to the success of their organisation.

Scottish workers are the UK’s most stressed workforce compared with Wales who were the least with just 52 per cent. The top three most stressed areas rank as follows:

  • Scotland – 71 per cent
  • Yorkshire & Humber – 69 per cent
  • North West / West Midlands – 66 per cent

According to the findings, Richard Branson would be the ideal ‘dream boss’ for UK employees and in reality nearly half (47 per cent) of employees say their actual employer does not create a ‘fun and healthy environment’ to work in.

One third of senior decision-makers revealed their business offers flexible working hours – while 28 per cent discourage it.

Paul said: “These findings on flexible working from our Big Work Survey could mean businesses are storing up bigger problems down the line, especially as 50 per cent of the staff who are offered flexible working, say it makes them more productive.”

Further findings from the survey include:

  • Water is the nation’s drink of choice in the workplace, followed by coffee and then tea
  • Of those that find their current job stressful, 47 per cent choose to spend time with their family to unwind after work, while 31 per cent opt for exercise…
  • But more than a third (35 per cent) try to counter stress by drinking alcohol and 27 per cent admit to comfort eating.

Paul added: “Steps to improve worker health can lead to measurable economic benefits which may be greater than the costs associated with sickness absence, as well as boost morale and improve recruitment and retention.”