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UK Productivity Severely Impacted by Stress and Anxiety


Canada Life Group Insurance, in cooperation with Instinctif Partners, conducted a survey in February 2018 of 1,001 UK full and part-time employees aged 18 and above. The survey results reveal that 9.7 million workers say their productivity is damaged by stress and anxiety caused by the workplace, with office workers worst affected.


UK productivity is being severely impacted by stress and anxiety, with employers failing to provide adequate support.  Three in ten (30%) workers, an estimated 9.7 million people,[1] say feeling anxious or stressed because of high workloads and pressure to perform regularly impacts their productivity at work. 24% say the same of stress caused by personal reasons.


  • Three in ten (30%) workers say feeling anxious or stressed because of high workloads/pressure to perform regularly impacts their productivity at work
  • Workers in cubicles (37%) and open-plan offices (32%) are more regularly affected by workplace stress than those who work from home (17%)
  • A quarter (23%) of staff say feeling their boss doesn’t care about their health or wellbeing damages their productivity
  • 77% of employees who are offered flexible working say it improves their productivity


Are offices bad for productivity?


Different workplace environments have varying effects on the wellbeing of workers. Employees in office environments are more likely to feel anxious or stressed because of work compared to those working from home.


Office style

% who feel anxious or stressed because of work

Cubicle style


Open plan


Private office


Work from home



Nearly half (46%) of employees working from home said they aren’t regularly negatively impacted by issues such as feeling anxious or stressed, tired or ill compared to less than a fifth (18%) of employees working in a cubicle style office and 27% in an open-plan office.


Offering flexible working arrangements to reduce stress may help boost productivity. Of those who are offered flexible working, three quarters (77%) say it improves their productivity. However, many employers still don’t acknowledge the positive impact of flexible working, with 20% of workers saying their boss doesn’t allow it.


Lack of health and wellbeing support from employers


A lack of engagement between employers and employees on how to improve wellbeing is causing productivity issues in the workplace. Almost half (45%) of employees say their employer does not know how to improve productivity, but a quarter (25%) of employees say that helpful employee benefits and perks would have the most positive impact on their productivity at work.


Staff say feeling their employer does not care about their health or wellbeing also damages productivity (23%). There is a clear lack of support on health and wellbeing issues - only 16% receive information from their employer on how to improve their health. Over half (54%) say their employer does not provide any protection products or services to support their health and wellbeing. Only a quarter (26%) believe their employer records sickness absence in terms of productivity.


Paul Avis, Marketing Director of Canada Life Group Insurance, comments:


“It is important to keep in mind that not everybody operates in the same way and being flexible with your staff can often mean creating a better working environment and increased engagement. For example, flexible working not only has the benefit of improving work-life balance but can also have a positive influence on overall employee health. People want to give their best, but we are all leading increasingly busy and “always-on” lives. Allowing employees to fit in time to exercise, drop off and collect their children from school or start/finish earlier or later can make an enormous difference to productivity. It also demonstrates that employers care about their staff and are prepared to move beyond a one-size-fits-all approach to ensure employees work at their best, which can only be a good thing for companies.


“With a quarter of staff saying employee benefits and perks would have the most positive impact on their productivity, employers need to ensure they are supporting staff not only via flexible working but also their corporate benefits package. Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), often provided as part of Group Income Protection products, provide specific help if an employee is struggling with issues at work (e.g. stress, problems with other employees) or in their personal lives (e.g. debt or finding childcare/eldercare). Ensuring employees have access to a range of protection solutions will ensure staff feel they have a robust support system to help them should they need it. Whatever changes businesses make to increase productivity in the workplace, staff wellbeing must be at the heart of it.”


[1] ONS UK Labour Market statistics