New research© published today shows workplaces across the UK are increasingly likely to contain Gordon Brown type characters, throwing printers across the room and abusing colleagues, rather than David Brent’s who want to be everyone’s best friend.
According to the study by PruHealth, the insurer and Vitality wellness programme provider, stress at work is leading to physical violence and creating a growing trend of desk rage, as lack of support from bosses and fears over job security and pay take their toll.
One in thirteen (7.3%) has witnessed a physical assault in the workplace and nearly 3% admit to having been physically aggressive to a colleague themselves.
Over one in three (37%) believe that incidents of desk rage have got worse since the start of the recession.
The findings reveal that when under pressure workers are more likely to lose it and get irritable or angry (46%) than any other response and nearly half (49%) are not convinced stress levels will get any better in the future.
Staff are more likely to vent their frustrations on colleagues than office property and equipment.
Top desk rage behaviours witnessed in the workplace
1. Being short with a colleague unfairly - 48%
2. Seeing a colleague break down and cry - 31%
3. Shouting at another colleague - 36%
4. Being rude to or swearing at a colleague - 31%
5. Taking frustration out on office equipment e.g. hitting computers, slamming telephones down, throwing something, slamming fists on the desk etc - 26%
6. Rudeness towards a client/customer 19%
7. Colleagues being physically aggressive towards another 7%
At least one in four British workers is displaying symptoms of the most common mental health problems such as depression, stress and anxiety. These include feeling worried or anxious (47%), being irritable or angry (46%), disturbed sleep (33%), lack of energy and feeling tired or lethargic (32%), feeling hopeless or helpless (27%), not feeling good about themselves (27%), lack of motivation and sense of purpose (27%), increased tendency to think negatively (26%) and feeling down or blue for more days than most (23%).
However, there is still a big stigma attached to mental illness with only 18% prepared to admit or tell someone that they suffer from mental health problems.
However they are more happy to use more socially acceptable labels with over half (55%) willing to say they are suffering from stress or depression (42%) and anxiety (34%), despite these being the most common forms of mental health disorders.
Those needing to take time off sick as a result are more than twice as likely to pretend they have a physical illness, than admit they are taking time off due to stress. One in five would not want their colleagues to know they are not coping (21%).
According to Dr Dawn Richards, Head of Clinical Services at PruHealth: "Stress, depression or anxiety are so prevalent in the workplace they now account for the most days lost due to work-related ill health.
"This is not only bad for people’s health and wellbeing, it is bad for business as it costs employers nearly £26 billion each year in sickness absence, reduced productivity and employee turnover.
"The first step to dealing with stress and mental illness is recognising it exists and how common it is.
"Mental health remains a taboo subject and this is the biggest barrier in addressing it. Early intervention and putting the right coping mechanisms in place are very important to nip symptoms in the bud, which is why awareness amongst individuals and employers alike is critical."