Whilst achieving a good work life balance is a goal for many Brits, new research from Mintel reveals that Britain’s workforce is turning to unhealthy food and drink habits to combat workplace stress.

Eating comfort food is the number one thing working Brits have done to tackle work stress in the past 12 months with 33% of workers saying they’ve done this, followed by 30% who have turned to alcohol and one in seven (15%) who have smoked or vaped to help cope with this stress.

But away from these vices, three in 10 (29%) British workers have opted for a healthier approach – relieving stress through exercising. What’s more, taking the view that a problem shared is a problem halved, some 30% of workers have spoken to a friend, partner or colleague, while 7% have sought the professional help of a counsellor or medical professional to help deal with stress.

Mintel research shows dealing with stress varies according to the age of workers. While 16-24’s are the most likely to turn to exercise to help relieve stress with half (49%) doing so, those aged 35-44 are the most likely to comfort eat (39%). Meanwhile, workers aged 25-34 are most likely to drink alcohol (35%).

Overall, just three in 10 (30%) Brits say they have not been stressed at work in the last 12 months. But it seems the answer to the nation’s stress issues could lie with being self employed. Indeed, self-employed workers and those working outside report considerably lower stress levels, especially when compared with people working full-time and those working in offices, as many as half (49%) of self employed workers and 41% of those who work outside are lucky enough to not suffer from workplace stress.

Just 30% of Brits say they have not been stressed at work in the last 12 months

Ina Mitskavets, Senior Consumer Lifestyle Analyst at Mintel said:

“As a nation of food lovers, Britons tend to turn to comfort foods and their favourite alcoholic drink when trying to combat work stress. That those that are self-employed and people working outside report lower levels of stress suggests that organising work events away from the main place of work, be it volunteering, charitable activities or sports outings could provide workers with a more varied routine and lead to a greater sense of wellbeing.”

With pressure piling on, it seems Brits are a nation of workaholics, as today, almost three in 10 (28%) working Brits admit that their career always comes first and just 49% agree that having a good work-life balance is more important than how much money they make. Indeed, rising work pressures mean extended working hours for many hard working Brits as just under half (47%) of employed Brits typically work longer hours than they are contracted for and 43% say they typically check or answer their work email after getting back home or over the weekend.

While men (31%) are more likely than women (25%) to say that their career comes first, the nation’s parents are no exception. Indeed, while almost two in five (39%) fathers of children under age 16 admit their career comes first, as many as one quarter (26%) of the nation’s working mums* are prioritising their career over all other factors.

And it seems that with many putting work first, their health could be suffering as a result. A worrying 45% of Britain’s workers report they sometimes struggle to find the time to take care of their health properly.

“Rising work pressures are having a detrimental impact on people’s wellbeing. But this presents forward-thinking companies with opportunities to come up with creative ways of encouraging employees to embrace a healthier balance, which could result in greater staff retention and loyalty. Amongst the cost-efficient ways of making an immediate difference in employees’ wellbeing are bans on using work email during breaks, such as at lunch, after work or on weekends, and partnerships with companies in the health, wellness and fitness fields.” Ina adds.

Finally, it seems for many working Brits the lunch break is becoming something of a relic of the past. One in 10 (10%) admit they skip lunch most of the time, while two in five (41%) work through lunch at least once a week. Indeed, despite being the ones to bring home the bacon, British workers remain very budget-conscious. Most bring their own lunch to work at least occasionally – while one fifth (20%) never do so.

For those embracing their lunch break, practical considerations and concerns are front of mind. Running errands (67%), researching products (65%) and going shopping (62%) are amongst the most popular activities that people do during their lunch break.

“For modern workers time is a precious commodity, which they cannot afford to waste. Services that give them back the time they could spend on their hobbies or with their loved ones are likely to hold strong appeal.” Ina concludes.

*12 months to September 2015

Press review copies of Mintel’s The Working Life UK 2015 report and interviews with Senior Consumer Lifestyle Analyst, Ina Mitskavets are available on request from the press office.

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