Two-thirds of workers have poor or below average mental wellbeingEmployees call for radical new approach with almost half of workers (49 per cent) wanting a yoga and meditation room and exercise facilities (50 per cent) to help tackle workplace stress.

On International Stress Awareness Week, 5th – 9th November 2018, a new nationwide survey of the country’s employees has revealed that two-thirds of employees (64 per cent) have ‘poor’ or ‘below average’ mental wellbeing according to the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (SWEMWBS)[1].

The research, conducted by The Stress Management Society and commissioned by workplace consultants, Peldon Rose reveals a stress epidemic amongst the country’s workforce with over a third (36 per cent) of people saying their workplace stress has been on-going for the past five years.

With three-quarters (75 per cent) of people in a sedentary occupation and a third (36 per cent) of people working nine hours or more a day, employees are increasingly aware of the detrimental impact their long hours and physical inactivity is having on their mental health and almost half (46 per cent) state a lack of time to focus on wellbeing and exercise is a leading cause of stress in their workplace – only behind increasing workloads (56 per cent).

Understandably, employees are calling for businesses to take a radical new approach to help them tackle stress; half of workers are calling for the introduction of a yoga and meditation room (49 per cent) and exercise facilities (50 per cent) in the office followed by heating and ventilation (44 per cent), quiet working areas (42 per cent) and breakout spaces (38 per cent).

Survey Highlights:

  • Mental wellbeing: Two-thirds of employees (64 per cent) have ‘poor’ or ‘below average’ mental wellbeing; 41 per cent have ‘poor’ mental wellbeing according to the SWEMWBS scale.
  • Time out: Half of all workers (48 per cent) say that they have taken a day off work for their mental health. Middle aged workers (35 – 50) are particularly likely to have done this with 53 per cent saying they have compared with 43 per cent of younger workers (18-34)
  • Causes of stress: ‘Increasing or heavy workloads’ (56 per cent), ‘limited time to focus on wellbeing’ (46 per cent) and ‘poor, slow or out-of-date technology’ (37 per cent) are the leading causes of workplace stress
  • Workplace solutions: 95 per cent state their physical work environment is important for their wellbeing and mental health but half say their current working environment doesn’t have a positive effect on their mental health (51 per cent), wellbeing (49 per cent), mood (47 per cent) and productivity (43 per cent)
  • Time to change: A quarter of respondents (26 per cent) feel that their organisations do nothing to help their employees manage stress in the workplace. Only half (52 per cent) say their office environment supports them to take regular breaks, a third (37 per cent) that it encourages them to exercise and a quarter (26 per cent) that it encourages them to meditate.


Encourage exercise:  The link between exercise and mental wellbeing is well understood[2]; physical activity has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension and elevate and stabilise mood[3].  However, half (46 per cent) of employees cite lack of time to focus on wellbeing and exercise as a leading cause of workplace stress, and only a third (37 per cent) state their work environment supports them to exercise.  Employers should respond to workers’ calls for facilities that encourage exercise (50 per cent) and yoga and meditation (49 per cent) by assessing whether the workplace can be adapted to accommodate them.  A workplace assessment will help businesses decide if an unused meeting area could be transformed into a meditation room or shower and changing facilities, or if the layout could be changed to encourage people to move around the office more. A strategically placed coffee machine or recycling point, for example, will make people more mobile, active and social.

 Wellbeing time: Taking a few minutes to meditate every day with the goal of becoming more mindful, or focused on the present, is a great way to relieve stress. Yet over half of employees (54 per cent) say their employers do not support mindfulness or meditation.  This is a false economy as being relaxed and stress free helps the mind work more efficiently and reduces anxiety.  Employers should ensure that supporting mental wellbeing is a key part of their company culture and that meditation and other relaxation techniques are publicly encouraged.  To help create a happy and productive workforce, businesses should also incorporate relaxation zones and quiet areas as well as ensuring plenty of access to natural light.

Update technology: A third (37 per cent) of workers cite ‘poor, slow or out-of-date technology’ as a leading cause of workplace stress.  Employers must ensure that workers’ jobs are being helped not hindered by technology by investing in the technology that will best support employees to do their jobs.

Supportive workplace culture:  With 95 per cent of workers stating their physical work environment is important for their wellbeing and mental health businesses must understand what is and isn’t working for employees in the office environment.  The happiest workplaces are ones that accommodate all office personality types and include a large variety of areas for employees to choose from depending on their mood and type of work. Employers should engage directly with employees through a number of methods, including focus workshops, collaborative sessions, interviews, and day-in-the life studies – and, wherever possible, implement the required changes. This will help create a positive and supportive office environment around the company’s greatest assets – its people.

Are you interested in issues concerning wellbeing at work? Take a look at the programme for our leading Workplace Wellbeing and Stress forum running on the 15th November.

[1] The Short Warwick & Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (SWEMWBS) is calculated through seven questions about an individual’s emotions, quality of interpersonal relationships and psychological functioning over the past two weeks.  A score of 24 or below is ‘below average’, 64 per cent of survey respondents had a score of 24 or below, 41 per cent had a rating of ‘poor’









Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.