Stressed out Brits are too scared to talk to their boss because of the stigma surrounding stress at work, new research by Slater & Gordon Lawyers has revealed.

More than half of working Brits say the pressures of their job make them feel constantly stressed with millions of people reporting insomnia, hair loss and panic attacks.

Almost a third said the stress from their job had at times left them struggling to complete basic everyday tasks, but just 20% said they would be comfortable telling their boss they were stressed at work.

This was mostly because they felt there was a stigma to being stressed and that it may impact their career prospects and chances for promotion later on if they did.

The research into the experiences of 2,000 working Brits by Employment Law Solicitors at Slater & Gordon Lawyers UK, also revealed that workplace stress had been so bad for a fifth of those asked that they had cried in the office; often in the toilet.

Slater & Gordon Employment Solicitor Harriet Bowtell said, “It really shouldn’t be the case that such a large percentage of the population are feeling so stressed at work that they are unable to sleep and are suffering panic attacks. The UK workforce is known to work some of the longest hours in Europe and this research confirms that work pressures, including hours, are making people ill.

“Most jobs come with certain pressures from time to time but your employer has a responsibility to ensure that they are not causing you to have genuine health problems because of the workplace environment.

“If they do you should speak to your HR advisor or a union representative and ask them to do something about it – not dealing with stress at work issues can cause long term damage both to your health and your career. There shouldn’t be an environment where you feel your career will suffer if you speak to your boss about the pressures you are under.”

A third of workers say they have called in sick because they were depressed or gripped by anxiety and of those, two thirds of respondents said they lied about their absence to their boss because they did not want to look like they could not cope or felt they would be viewed as weak.

One in seven say they have even turned to alcohol to cope with the stress at the end of a long day and more than two thirds said the pressure had been so intense that at times they had contemplated quitting their job.

One in five turned to comfort eating to deal with stress and nearly one in four employees found themselves avoiding a colleague in an attempt to reduce anxiety and pressure levels.

The main pressures that people reported caused them stress at work were unrealistic targets, the expectation to work long hours, fear of redundancy and a poor relationship with colleagues.

Unrealistic deadlines, heavy workloads, aggressive managers and unsympathetic colleagues were also cited as reasons for suffering with stress as was undue scrutiny or micromanagement

The 24/7 nature of jobs was also a significant factor in increasing the stress felt by the British workforce, with half of respondents saying modern technology has left them feeling like they are on-call all the time and are never quite free to relax.

More than half said there was not adequate support at work and a third said employers could do more to reduce stress levels around the office.

Harriet also said, “Until employers start making it easier for employees to speak out about stress at work we will continue to see this level of suffering, often behind closed doors. This is extremely damaging not only to the individual person but also to the business they work for in terms of morale, productivity and reputation.

We have seen very senior executives laid low by stress. This is not about victimhood, the highest fliers can be effected and need support to get back on track. So employers must start to address this problem.”

Top 10 Causes of Stress at Work:

  1. Being given too much work (39%)
  2. Unrealistic deadlines (32%)
  3. I am not paid enough for the hours I work / duties I perform (31%)
  4. Work hours are eating into my private life (23%)
  5. Fear of missing targets (22%)
  6. I am expected to work more hours than I am supposed to (19%)
  7. Undue scrutiny / micromanagement by my boss (17%)
  8. Harassment by bosses / colleagues (16%)
  9. I fear redundancies (14%)
  10. Relationships with colleagues (14%).


  • 92% have suffered work stress
  • 13% turned to alcohol because of work stress
  • Only 20% would feel comfortable telling their boss they were suffering from stress
  • 58% do not believe there is adequate support for them to turn to at work if they are struggling with stress
  • Workers in Wales (55%), Cardiff (56%) and Liverpool (57%) claim to be the most stressed. While employees in Edinburgh (39%) said they felt less stress. Londoners (52%) and people in the South East (54%)
  • People who work in HR claim to be the most stressed. 62% report their work is stressful, while those in manufacturing seem to be the least stressed (40%)
  • Workers in Cardiff are most likely to call in sick due to stress. (61% admit missing work due to stress)

Slater & Gordon’s stress at work research was carried out online by Censuswide between 24/06/2014 & 01/07/2014 amongst a panel resulting in 2,053 full time worker respondents.