Lambeth UNISON publishes results of survey on workplace stress

Staff at Lambeth Council are overworked and too stressed, survey finds

Lambeth UNISON has launched a campaign – “Just Say No!” – which is aimed at preventing extra workload and stress falling on council employees as a result of cuts to staffing levels. The recent devestating cuts to local government funding which have seen whole teams decimated and a number of individuals feeling the pressure to ‘do more with less’ is having a very negative impact on UNISON members.  As part of the campaign we conducted a workplace survey into workload and stress and the results were quite shocking.

stress levels1

How stressed do you feel at work?

We found that only 2.7% reported feelings of “no stress” at work, whereas 46% were sometimes stressed at work, 33% were very stressed.  17% of staff felt ‘far too’ stressed at work, something that affects morale and productivity.

lunch break 2

How often have you worked through your lunch break in the last 2 weeks?

The amount of workload means that around 23% had worked through their lunch breaks 6 times or more in the last two weeks. 20% had worked through their lunch breaks between 3-5 times in the same period.
But a number of staff are feeling the pressure to work late or take work home to keep up: 69% have worked outside the normal working hours in the last two weeks.

Nearly 70% of respondants have worked between 1 and 10 hours on top of their usual contracted hours, worryingly 12% had worked 11-20 or more hours above their contracted time.  One respondent replied:

“One notable day was 10 hours and 40 minutes without a lunch break. In addition I have missed out on social activities due to working late and taken work home to complete at the weekend”

One issue that Lambeth UNISON is campaigning on is “acting up”, whereby staff are asked to do work above their paygrades and job descriptions to make up for the short fall in personnel in more senior positions. Our survey found that 72% of staff has been asked to do work ourside of their contracted  job descriptions. As one colleague reported:

“My Team Leader has left. I have been offered an Honorarium to cover some of his tasks but the Honorarium has not materialized but I am still expected to do the work.”


personal life

Has workload effected your personal life negatively in recent weeks?

It is perhaps not a surprise though it should be a serious concern that 56% feel their workload is negatively impacting on their personal life.

The result of the cuts, constant reorganisations and pressure to perform with reduced resources is starting to have an impact on sickness levels. Already 10% have taken time off for stress in the last four months., but we discovered that 20% are considering taking time off for stress.


continue at lambeth council

Could you see yourself continuing at Lambeth Council if the current workload stays the same?

What does all this mean in terms of the crucial question of whether staff feel they want to stay at the council long term at the current levels of workload. Staff continuity is important because it produces greater professionalisation and ensures continuity of services for residents. This is where the result should give everyone at Lambeth Council pause for throught – 56% felt they cannot continue at Lambeth Council  if the workload stays the same.




Staff testimonials

“Worked many evenings to catch up on back log of work”

“Excessive hours are a norm, but still we are chastised for not meeting expected targets”

“For me it’s not the workload but the atmosphere in work that is demoralising and stressful. I have had days where I just want to cry all the time, my head of service barely communicates with the team and there is so much tension around job security and confusion about who to contact as so many people have left. The workload is not the stressful part of my job!”

“I have covered for the end of the day as too few staff timetabled to safely close library. I have also worked through lunch breaks to keep up with workload or provide cover.”

“My Team Leader has left. I have been offered an Honorarium to cover some of his tasks but the Honorarium has not materialized but I am still expected to do the work.”

“After large number of redundancies in our department, I have had to manage increased Safeguarding cases and assessments. In order to get assessments completed in time I have worked at home in the evenings. Sometimes this has been 2-3 times a week.”

“I currently line manage 5 members of staff even though it isn’t in my job description.”

“I also had to complete risk assessments and parenting assessments over the weekend as the time scales for these assessments would change on short notice, for example, you would be instructed on a Tuesday to produce a risk assessment on the [following] Monday”

“Too many to say! One notable day was 10 hours and 40 minutes without a lunch break. In addition I have missed out on social activities due to working late and taken work home to complete at the weekend”

“for nearly two weeks while the team was short staffed I had taken my laptop home to continue work up until 10.00pm or later to ensure the work of a team of 4 was complete”

“I work excessive hours pretty much every week as the workload is massive and my team is under resourced.”

“I never leave on time”

“[I] have worked for several years in a role that used to have 3 staff”

“Had to work after working hours at home to complete urgent tasks outside work. Worked when l was off sick so that l could keep on top of my work.”
Proposed solutions from staff

“We need support staff. These have all been cut, but everyone else is just having to pick up this work in their spare time. There also needs to be more leadership from Directors to prevent the current unsustainable expectations spiralling any further. We should do less better-“more with less” is a concept that can only be taken so far and is unrealistic.”

“Sharing of workload more evenly, managers to realise the pressure and stress that we are under and assist rather than add to the load”

“More permanent staff at assessment/service officer grade. More Assessment/service officer staff on duty at the Brixton Customer Centre so claimant’s with complex queries can come in & resolve them rather than Captia sending escalating call memos”

“Reasonable timeframes and more staff”

“Give consideration to staff well being and job satisfaction. My opinion is that staff have just become robots with a target sign on their head. If staff can’t achieve unrealistic targets they are blamed and made to feel inadequate and on top of this the unrealistic targets are then given as action plan which creates insecurity, stress because this threatens their livelihood and may result in sacking. All depts should allow staff to have more flexibility e.g working 70 hours over 9 days to have an a day off every 2 weeks. I know that some councils allow this and possibility other depts in Lambeth but the availability of this depends on the whim of the Team Manager.”

“Strategic leadership need to recognize government cuts have resulted in untold pressure to services which in turn has affected the quality of our services”

“I would like to see more social workers as the work load is to much. Also, Lambeth needs to review how they allocate the cases to the workers. At the moment you have your maximum of cases (which sometimes is more than what one should have) and they don’t look at the complexity of the cases.”

“Our post to be evaluated to reflect what we do and the opportunity to work from home if requested.”

“More staff to do the work, managers being more understanding and applying less pressure. More people being trained correctly so they can cover staff shortages in other teams”

“Ensuring that the resources required for projects are scoped adequately and once staff are allocated to them they are not then given other priorities.”

“Recognise that as staff has left and workload has increased all deadlines cannot always be met. Considering the current low staff numbers not everything can be an emergency. Understand the level of staffing has affected service, which in return has an impact on customers and their reaction to staff. There has been an increase in staff being abused”

“sympathetic manager needed”

“need more areas for social gatherings, and a chill out room”

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