Workplace Stress Research

01 Jun 2017

Half of UK employees lose sleep over work, with workplace stress leading to more drinking and smoking
  • 51% of employees lose sleep worrying about their job or work related concerns
  • Lack of healthy work/life balance a factor: 41% stay up late or get up early to check work emails
  • A third (34%) of employees who are smokers smoke more after stressful work days
  • Two fifths (42%) admit that stress and pressure in the workplace causes them to overeat or make unhealthy food choices
  • Employer attitudes don’t help – 21% employees don’t believe health and wellbeing is important to their boss

Stress at work can lead to sleepless nights and poor drinking and smoking habits among UK employees, according to new research from Canada Life Group Insurance.

A good sleep routine and healthy work/life balance are vital for physical and mental health – not to mention productivity – but half of employees (51%) lose sleep worrying about their job or work-related concerns, and one in ten (11%) go to work feeling tired every day.

A recent study shows sleep deprived workers cost the UK £40 billion a year in lost productivity.1

Two-fifths (41%) also say they sometimes stay up late or get up early to check emails, with men (46%) more likely to do so than women (36%).

Smoking and drinking encouraged in work environments

Sleep is not the only aspect of an employee’s health that can be negatively affected by work.

  • Over a quarter of employers who smoke do so more at work than they do at home (27%), with men (34%) more likely to do so than women (18%); a third (34%) say they smoke more after a busy or stressful day at work
  • A quarter (25%) of employees who smoke describe it as a good way to break up the day, while 28% have tried to give up smoking before but found it too hard to do so during the working week
  • Worryingly, 29% of employees do not think smoking has an impact on your likelihood of getting cancer. Yet in reality, smoking accounts for one in four UK cancer deaths.2
  • Younger employees are most likely to be susceptible to pressures around smoking at work. Twice as many 25-34s who smoke say colleagues have influenced them to smoke more often, in contrast to all employees (30% v 14%).
  • Nearly two fifths (37%) of these smokers also say they have tried to give up but found it too hard during the working week, higher than the 28% of all employees who said the same.

Employer attitudes take their toll on health and wellbeing

Employer attitudes are failing to encourage positive health and exercise habits.

  • Over a quarter (27%) of employees believe their boss and/or colleagues wouldn’t approve if they used their full lunch hour to exercise.
  • Two fifths (42%) of employees agree that stress or pressure in the workplace causes them to overeat or make unhealthy food choices, while the majority of employees (62%) skip meals when busy at work.
  • Unhealthy eating at work has led to many gaining weight as a result: two in five (39%) have put on weight since they started their current role.
  • A fifth (21%) of workers believe employee health is not important to their organisation, while just over a quarter (27%) believe employee health is important to their organisation – but only to maintain a productive workforce.

Paul Avis, Marketing Director at Canada Life Group Insurance, commented: “Employees who turn up to work feeling tired are less likely to be productive. Our research shows that workplace stress is often the cause of workers’ sleepless nights, with worrying about work related issues and checking emails keeping staff up at night. Stress can be just as damaging for staff as physical conditions, with 15.8 million working days lost last year to such mental health issues.3

“Providing staff with access to Employee Assistance Programmes – such as those provided alongside group income protection products – is one way employers can demonstrate their commitment to health and wellbeing and help reduce workplace stress. This is particularly important given many employees do not believe their employers value their health, and are unlikely to feel engaged with their workplace as a result. Tackling stress at its root will help reduce sickness absence rates and improve productivity – not to mention give staff a better night’s sleep.”


We actively encourage clients to regularly survey staff not only in relation to their benefits to understand the value placed on these but also on their working environment and how this can be improved. The answers could be enlightening and often little changes can be made that make a huge difference to morale and as such productivity.

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