The average adult spends two hours and 11 minutes every day feeling stressed, amounting to five and a half years a lifetime, according to new research.

The time spent feeling stressed is equivalent to 15 hours a week and 33 days of each year, with the average peak time of stress at the age of 36, revealed the study by OnePoll.

In a survey of 2,000 British adults, the research found that being late for something and running out of time are the mostly likely causes of stress.

This was followed by getting stuck in traffic and health issues for yourself or family members.

Lisa Gillespie, director of HR Services, Moorepay said: “While stress is an abstract term without a specific medical definition, it can have a substantial impact on staff wellbeing and an organisation’s performance - both in a positive and negative sense.

“Positive stress can motivate employees to stretch themselves and reach goals they previously thought unattainable. Negative stress, on the other hand, can have very serious consequences on employees’ health and their productivity.”

In the list of the top ten stress inducing things, meeting deadlines, not being able to afford things, weight gain and debt were all present, whilst 63% said they felt stressed even on their days off.

Ms. Gillespie added: “Employers will find themselves treading a fine line if they want to identify whether external unknown stress factors are affecting an employee. Or, indeed, if work-related worries are leaving a worker feeling overwhelmed. As with any illness, having a confidential conversation with an employee to discuss their current situation and taking immediate action to make workers feel less vulnerable is the best approach to reduce stress.

“Additionally, companies should build up the stress resilience of their organisation by incorporating mechanisms into work-related processes that allow them to detect and counter any stressful situations before they can overwhelm employees.”

Ms. Gillespie gives her practical advice on how companies can deal with and counter work-related stress:

  • Work in teams - shared tasks are less likely to overwhelm staff and if someone is having a bad day, others help support getting the tasks completed.
  • Offer external counselling for life events - money, relationships and other domestic issues can reduce resilience to ordinary work stressors.
  • Make time in 121s for workers to open up about any problems which are affecting their work - managers should develop a good rapport with staff to enable such issues to be discussed.
  • Reward over-achievement - positive feedback amplifies the feelings individuals gain from having worked hard to achieve; this can counteract any feelings of being undermined in other parts of their lives.
  • Get to know what worries team members - just asking 'how are you?' is not always enough. Ask questions which help them to open up e.g. what three things would you like to change in work or life to help you meet your personal/career aspirations?
  • If someone if showing symptoms of stress but does not open up, make a point of reminding them you are there to support them.
  • If a worker tells you of something which is creating pressure spend time helping them to unpick the problems and putting practical measures in place such as breaking tasks down into small pieces or sharing them.
  • Physical health makes people more resilient so encourage workers to take breaks, encourage external activities such as charity running events, cycle to work schemes and provide somewhere they can have lunch or a tea break away from desks or where they do their work.
  • Always ensure statutory obligations relating to workplace safety are embedded such as health checks for night shift workers, ensuring workers take their holidays and ensuing noise levels etc. are within tolerances.
  • Environment has a huge affect on well-being so think about tidiness, availability of facilities, temperature and lighting are all considered. Some studies show the colours of walls and the introduction of plants into a work environment have a positive effect.
  • And finally - deal with workers who cause stress for other workers, whether this be under-performance, bullying, frequent absences or negative attitude - they can tip an already-stressed individual over the edge!