Stress is most common occupational hazard in the Netherlands
The number of people whose careers are being negatively affected by stress has risen considerably over the past five years.
Government ministers have released the results of an investigation examining stress at work, highlighting the difficulties that surround discussing the mental health issue, and warning of its economic consequences.
Stress-related burnouts on the rise
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment has undertaken a study of stress in the workplace, publishing its results to coincide with World Stress Week. The findings paint a concerning picture, with roughly an eighth of individuals in the workforce admitting that they suffer from stress.
Furthermore, the study revealed that 12 per cent of the workforce have experienced a stress-related burnout. The number of people affected by burnouts - those who are temporarily or permanently unable to work due to stress - has increased eightfold over the past five years.
Employees worried about speaking out
Despite being very common, it seems stress is still a taboo topic in the workplace. The survey revealed that employees suffering from stress are often unwilling to discuss it at work, or to seek help from superiors.
According to the study, 45 per cent of workers believed that showing signs of stress would give the impression that they cannot handle their work, with 25 per cent believing it could result in negative performance evaluations.14 per cent of professionals even feared that raising the issue of stress may cost them their job.
Employers have also recognised the lack of dialogue surrounding stress in the workplace, with 15 per cent of bosses believing that corporate culture makes discussing it difficult.
Some employers admitted to turning a blind eye to signs of stress amongst employees for fear of preying into personal issues.
Other bosses, avoided confronting stress in case they may have caused it themselves.
The economic toll of stress
Stress is now the number one occupational hazard in the Netherlands, causing six million days of absenteeism each year. This is not only a serious problem for the individuals who are suffering, it is also becoming very expensive.
Minister Lodewijk Asscher explained that when people drop out of work because of a burnout, it often takes a very long time to return to the workplace.
According to Mirjam Sijmons, director of employee organisation ArboNed, the average person taking an absence due to a mental health issue will be off work for 180 days, costing around 45.000 euros.
The economic consequences of this are significant: in the first half of 2014 alone, stress-related dropouts cost the government and businesses almost 800 million euros.
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