• One in five (21%) middle managers has felt stressed for more than a year
  • One in ten (12%) feels ‘close to breaking point’
  • As a result, managers are unable to support their teams with their own stress problems

Managers are too stressed themselves to notice that their team members aren’t coping, according to a new study from Bupa.

The research, conducted to support Bupa’s Healthy Minds programme, combines the views of 6,000 employees across a range of industries, job levels and UK regions to create an in-depth picture of stress in the workplace. With one in six adults experiencing a mental health problem at any time, the impact on businesses is significant in terms of staff absence, productivity and performance.

The research reveals that half (51%) of managers say they feel ‘constantly worried’ and a disturbingly high number (40%) have experienced depression as a result of being stressed – underlining that stress can be a ‘gateway’ to other mental health conditions. In addition, two in five (43%) middle managers think the pressure they are under at work is too great, saying that they often worry about work at home (47%).

Bupa’s research clearly indicates that the stigma attached to mental health problems still exists in UK workplaces, as stressed managers are suffering in silence.  Two out of three (67%) say they are likely to keep quiet about their stress. Only one in ten (12%) middle managers speak to their boss about their stress levels, with 15% concerned that it would make them appear ‘weak’.

As a result of being too stressed, managers are struggling to support junior colleagues with their own stress-related problems. Three in ten (29%) of those surveyed admit they do not have enough time to deal with team members’ stress, and one in four (25%) say that they feel too stressed to address these issues within their team.

Patrick Watt, director of corporate at Bupa, comments: “Mental illness has been recognised in most other parts of society but remains heavily stigmatised in business. Few people are prepared to discuss their worries openly.

“This research shows that there is still not enough support within businesses at any level of the organisation. Work is not going to get less stressful. So we need to get better at recognising the early signs of stress and mental health issues in ourselves and our colleagues and promoting a culture which encourages people to speak up and ask for help.”

Dr Sandra Delroy, clinical director of mental health at Bupa, adds: “If left unchecked, stress can lead to more serious mental and physical health problems. Organisations are in a prime position to make it easier for employees to come forward and seek help. Stress needs to be a topic on the agenda. While managers might be feeling the pressure too, they can make a huge difference by encouraging open and honest dialogue with their team. Let your employees know that feeling stressed is not a sign of weakness.”

Stress builds for Real Estate workers

Bupa’s research shows that Real Estate is the UK’s most stressed sector, with more than half of workers (54%) feeling the pressure. A further one in five says that they are struggling to cope (20%) and are worried about the effect of stress on their health (22%).

Public sector workers are also feeling the pressure. As government cuts take their toll, half (47%) of employees describe themselves as feeling stressed.

Feeling the strain

Bupa’s research reveals that the top five stressors at work are:

  1.  Workload (22%)
  2. Trying to meet targets (11%)
  3. Office politics (10%)
  4. Restructuring/lack of job security (9%)
  5. Client/customers (7%)

A free guide to help people identify, understand and deal with their stress is available from