Work-related stress the biggest health concern

Data shows only three percent of professionals prefer to see a counsellor to manage their stress.

Fear of loss of income and the fear of losing a family member to Covid-19 went head-to-head as the biggest stress factors of the last year for many working professionals. This is according to Profmed’s 2021 Stress Index.

The medical scheme surveys and strives to gauge stress among South African professionals on an annual basis, with more than 2,400 professionals across a variety of sectors responding to this year’s survey.

Despite Covid-19, the Stress Index results for the last three years have remained somewhat consistent.

Craig Comrie, CEO Profmed, said, “It is not implausible to associate work with both financial and health issues faced by South African professionals. With concepts invading our daily lexicon like the ‘new normal’ and working from home, it’s no wonder 36 percent of respondents admitted to struggling with balancing working from home and home life.”

The 2021 results revealed that 42 percent of respondents are affected emotionally, physically and mentally by stress. To deal with it, 49 percent of respondents consistently exercise, which is a stark contrast to 2019, when 60 percent used exercise as a tool to deal with stress.
The research continues to indicate that only three percent prefer to see a counsellor to manage their stress.

Craig adds, “The Stress Index illustrates that work-related stress remains one of the biggest health concerns for South African professionals. With Covid-19 elevating stress and anxiety levels, failure to recognise our stress and find healthy ways of coping can severely affect us and impair our physical and mental wellbeing.”

Work usually takes priority over everything else in our lives and our aspiration to prosper professionally can cause us to neglect our own well-being. A well-adjusted work-life balance is paramount, not only for our physical, emotional and mental well-being, but also important for our career.

Although Section 9 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) stipulates that working hours should not exceed 45 hours a week, the “new normal” introduced by the pandemic sees many professionals far exceeding this.

Wellness support
When asked if working from home has improved the work-life balance, 62 percent of the professionals felt this question was “not applicable” to them, with 21 percent saying their work-life balance has improved in 2021.

According to Craig, there are many ways to get help if you are struggling to cope. “If stress hinders your daily routine for several days in a row, it’s important to identify the root cause and speak to a professional,” he said.

Organisations that provide wellness support for stress for their employees record less sickness, fatigue and mental burnout where employees are concerned. These incentives lead to a more positive company culture.

“Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, 39.08 percent of our members reported their mental health has suffered the most,” Craig said. “This is because the pandemic has overwhelmed every aspect of our lives. With the vaccine roll-out plan being the contentious topic that it is, 39.05 percent of our members have moderate confidence levels in it.”

On a scale of extremely high to extremely low, 31 percent of respondents recorded medium stress levels. However, the results showed that some people are able to deal and recover from stress more effectively than others.

Craig added, “It’s also important to know that continuous tension on your body from stress may contribute to severe health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Mental disorders such as depression or anxiety are also caused by ongoing and untreated stress. Knowing your stress triggers and tackling them early is vital in the battle against stress.”