Priory Group has opened its first walk-in high street clinic in Birmingham this week, to tackle workplace stress.
Stress is a significant issue in the UK, particularly in the workplace, and especially in the West Midlands. The Labour Force Survey found that the region had a “statistically significantly” higher rate of work-related stress in 2013-14 compared to 2011-12 and 2010-11. Estimated rates of self-reported work stress per 100,000 people rose 67% during the period.
A separate report said West Midlands workers put in £2.2bn worth of unpaid overtime last year, with 379,601 workers doing unpaid overtime - worth, on average, £5,738 each.
The West Midlands came joint highest with London, as the UK regions where employees do the most work beyond their contracted hours – on average, 8.2 hours of unpaid overtime a week, according to the TUC.
With so many people working so hard, and an estimated one in four people currently dealing with a mental health problem, employers need to recognise their responsibilities to their workers' wellbeing - both mental and physical, said Priory Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Omair Ahmed.
Demand for people’s time was increasingly exceeding their capacity – causing emotional, intellectual and physical exhaustion. Increased competitiveness and a leaner, post-recession workforce added to the pressures, he said. “There are so many causes of work-related stress such as job design, management structures, and recent problems with the recession and the slow recovery from it.
“I see lots of people saying that they are worried about mentioning work-related stress or anxiety because of the impact on their career, their professional integrity, their reputation and their general worry about future prospects. Stigma is still very strong.
“Many people in Birmingham work in the public sector and their job insecurity and worry, coupled with rising costs, all add up.”
Priory Group has invested £240,000 in its Birmingham Wellbeing Centre in Edmund Street, within walking distance of New Street Station and in the heart of the Colmore business district. It aims to treat up to 1,000 patients a year for conditions including depression, stress, addictions, and eating disorders. It will also offer child and adolescent diagnostic services for autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
A team of psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists will also be on hand to help with relationship and bereavement issues. There will be seven consulting rooms and one group room. The centre has created around 25 local jobs for medical and administrative staff.
Birmingham is a hugely important driver of economic success in the UK; around 4.3 million people of working age live within an hour of the city, and more than 300,000 students and 100,000 graduates live within an hour’s drive of the city, drawn from the 15 universities within reach.
A digital hub, Birmingham boasts 21% of the UK's games industry workforce. Yet its workers’ long hours mean that many struggle to maintain a work-life balance, causing high stress levels.
According to a study of 1,000 working parents throughout the UK, by health cash plan provider Medicash, those who had the worst work-life balance lived in Birmingham (43.3%), followed by London (39%), Liverpool (36%) and Manchester (35.6%). Respondents stated that the main reason they overworked was because there was 'too much work to complete within a working day' (35.2%), followed by 'so I am not considered for redundancy' (13.7%).
Priory Group recently opened high street Wellbeing Centres in Fenchurch Street, in the heart of London, and Canterbury, Kent.
Tony Urwin, Occupational Psychologist and Managing Director of Priory Wellbeing Centres, said: “Tight deadlines, increased workloads, poor work-life balance, long commutes — these are just a few factors Birmingham employees face in today's hectic workplace. But employees can handle only so much.
“Studies have shown that stress not only leads to absenteeism, diminished productivity and increased health care costs for businesses, it can prompt highly talented employees to quit.
“The good news is that stress is treatable and we can help prevent mental health problems arising, or work with employers to enable a person with a mental health condition to continue in work.”