Illness-stress-workA new poll conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), has revealed the factors that are considered to be the most common causes of work-related stress.

The study found that 51% of workers across Europe think that work-related stress is common in their workplace, while 16% believe it is ‘very common’.

Another key finding of the 3rd edition of the pan-European opinion poll was that female workers are more likely than male workers to say that work-related stress is common (54% v 49%), as are workers aged 18-54 (53%) compared with workers aged 55+ (44%).

It also revealed that four in ten of those polled believe that work-related stress is not handled well in their workplace.

Commenting on the findings, EU-OSHA Director, Christa Sedlatschek, said:

“41% of workers across Europe say that work-related stress is not handled well in their workplace, with 15% telling us it is handled “not at all well”.

“We are very much focused on tackling psychosocial risks, such as stress, in the workplace. Next year, we will launch our Healthy Workplaces Campaign on “Managing Stress“. The message to be conveyed across European companies of different sizes and sectors is that psychosocial risks can be dealt with in the same logical and systematic way as other health and safety issues.”

According to the study, which comprised of more than 16,000 interviews across 31 European countries, the most common cause of work-related stress is job insecurity or job reorganisation (72%) followed by hours or workload (66%).

In addition to these factors, unacceptable behaviour such as bullying or harassment is perceived to be another common cause of work-related stress by 59% of respondents.

Other factors include a lack of support from colleagues or superiors (57%), a lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities (52%) and limited opportunity to managed work patterns (46%).

The study also looked into the views of an ageing workforce and the awareness of programmes and policies to make it easier for workers to continue working up to or beyond the retirement age.

Across Europe, 52% of those surveyed expect the proportion of workers aged 60+ in their workplace to increase by 2020. It revealed that workers aged 55+ are more likely to think this (59%) than those aged 35-54 (54%) and workers aged 18-34 (45%).

It also found that only 12% of workers are aware of policies and programmes making it easier for older workers to continue working up to or beyond the retirement age, although awareness of these types of policies increases as workplace size increases, ranging from 7% in the smallest workplaces (one-ten workers) up to 19% in the largest workplaces (more than 250 workers).

Among those who are not aware of such programmes and policies, 61% support their introduction, while the groups more likely to favour these policies include women, part-time workers, health or care workers and those in larger workplaces.

When asked whether they thought older workers aged 60+ were more prone to certain behaviours than other workers:

22% of workers perceive older workers to have more accidents at work than other workers (this relationship is consistent among most groups although manual workers are slightly more likely to think this).
28% think that older workers aged 60+ are less productive at work than other workers.
42% think that older workers tend to suffer more from work-related stress than other workers, while slightly more workers think the converse (48%).
60% believe that workers aged 60+ are less likely to be able to adapt to changes at work than other workers, and this perception is held by half (49%) of older workers aged 55+ (though it should be noted one in three of all workers (33%) believe that it is other workers who are less able to adapt to changes at work).