A business man with a phone rested on his shoulder, tired and frustrated
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If you are anxious about work, you are not alone. Companies that supply counselling services to banks, law firms, IT companies and government say they are receiving more calls asking for help with stress.

Capita, an outsourcing company that provides employee support to more than 800 companies, said the number of calls for work-related stress rose by about 10 per cent last year and continued last month, with restructuring and redundancies a common theme. Atos, the French outsourcer, is another company that has seen an increase in calls to its helplines at its Help Employee Assistance division.

Meanwhile, Right Management, part of the ManpowerGroup, which provides a 24-hour counselling and support line to 400 businesses, has seen a rise in calls from managers asking how to cope with stressed staff.

Stress remains one of the largest causes of work absence, according to all three companies. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development confirms that among non-manual workers stress is the chief reason employees fail to turn up to work and any resurgence in economic sentiment has yet to feed into more optimism in the workplace.

Phil Cox, a chartered member the CIPD, and a workplace counsellor and coach, said: “Although [staff] have been working harder, many are not getting the recognition they feel they deserve and for some this can trigger stress and depression.”

If stress in the recession was triggered by job losses, now people are anxious about the prospect of getting their pay and hours cut as well as fearing that their terms and conditions of work will worsen.

Although the number of jobs is increasing, real wages have been falling consistently since 2010, the longest period for 50 years, according to fresh figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a therapist at Capio Nightingale hospital in London, has also seen an increased number of executives who feel overworked. “People have been under such stress for the last few years. As soon as they relax and are no longer running on adrenalin they feel burnt out.”

Mr Cox said the increase in demand for executive coaching might also be tied to the need for more counselling. “The goalposts have changed for executives in the past five years, which means they are having to develop new skills.”

Dr Mike Drayton, a business psychologist, says some of the stress is driven by employees’ inability to say “no”.

“People at senior levels have very fuzzy boundaries between work and home life. Work life is more salient and encroaches on their personal life,” says Dr Drayton.

Increasing demands on senior executives may also encourage people to shun high-flying positions. Andrew Roscoe, partner at Egon Zehnder, the executive search company, said many internal candidates were not aspiring to more senior jobs because of the stress involved. “When we delve into it we find most people don’t want the combination of stress and strain and risk and reward that goes with senior jobs,” he said.

Capita said people were working longer hours to earn extra cash, but in some cases this had led to exhaustion. “They then have time off and either reflect on their lifestyle and don’t want to return to work or become ill and returning to work is delayed,” Capita said.

Dr Ramlakhan said concern about staff welfare was pushing wellbeing up the corporate agenda. She noted that a recent workshop she held at a City law firm was fully booked within five minutes.

In the public sector, fear over redundancy remains high. Andrew Kinder, clinical director of Atos’s Help Employee Assistance division, said: “The ongoing state of uncertainty and threat of redundancy can be very stressful.”

Jayne Carrington, managing director of Right Management adds: “There is work intensity . . . as organisations try to do more with less, but the salient point is how stress is managed.

“Often people want a manager to notice that they . . . seem to be struggling . . . and this needs a manager to be confident and competent to have this conversation.”

Jill Miller, research adviser at the CIPD, highlighted that increased numbers of calls to helplines signified employers were improving the awareness of such programmes. However, she believed stress had increased as employers set tighter deadlines and vacant positions created by redundancies were not refilled.

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