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January 2014

LRD survey shows high stress levels in the civil service

LRD was commissioned by the public and civil service union PCS to conduct a major survey of stress among its members at the end of 2013. Almost 8,000 staff in two departments, HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Transport, responded to the online survey, based on questions drawn up by the HSE and trade unions for work-related stress surveys. These covered the six primary sources of stress at work: demands, control, support (managers' support and peer support), relationships, role, and change. The survey findings overall suggested that PCS members in the HMRC/DfT and their agencies, are experiencing stress levels well above average.

The research revealed four very poor areas:

  • the worst stressor for staff was change - defined by the HSE as "how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation"

  • the second worst area was control - defined as "how much say the person has in the way they do their work"

  • the third area of particular concern was role - "this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment"

  • the fourth very poor area was managers' support which includes "the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation [and] line management".

Other findings include:

  • the only area in which the performance is above average (though still not in the top fifth) is relationships - which includes "promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour"

  • one in six respondents report that they are "always, often or sometimes bullied" (one in five respondents in the DfT and agencies)

  • administrative staff and those in unspecified 'other' grades/jobs are overall the most stressed groups, but different grades of staff tend to be stressed by different aspects of work

  • male respondents are on average slightly more stressed than women, except in the area of control, where women are slightly more stressed than men

  • younger members (aged 21-40) are more stressed than older members, except that the small group of under-21s in the survey appear to be the least stressed group

  • disabled respondents are considerably more stressed than non-disabled respondents, particularly in the area of relationships

  • respondents from unspecified 'Other' ethnic backgrounds and those of mixed ethnic background are considerably more stressed than white respondents and black respondents, with Asian respondents slightly more stressed than white and black respondents

  • carers of adult relatives had considerably higher overall stress levels than those without such responsibility.



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