The boss is demoralised, downsized and delayered too

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Britain's bosses are a down-sized, delayered and demoralised lot struggling to cope with record levels of stress, according to a major survey published today.

Redundancies, the introduction of new technology and the loss of key personnel have placed extra burdens on managers, resulting in increased workloads and longer hours.

While this news might provoke an outbreak of somersaults and schadenfreude among downtrodden workers across the land, the report's authors argue that the issue of managerial stress affects everybody.

"This not an 'us and them' problem'," Mark Hastings, policy adviser at the Institute of Management, said. "The survey shows that even those who supposedly control their own working patterns are still under the gun."

The report says that an estimated 270,000 people take time off work every day because of work-related stress. The cost to industry and the taxpayer of such absenteeism is enormous, totalling pounds 7bn a year in terms of sick pay, lost production and spending on the National Health Service.

It also finds that stress adversely affects the vast majority of managers' morale, health, effectiveness and relationships.

More than 80 per cent of managers say that their workload has increased over the past year, while nearly half of them feel that it has increased greatly.

Unpaid overtime and "presenteesim" are also widespread. Nearly 60 per cent of respondents claimed that they always worked in excess of their official hours while one in seven always works at weekends.

The Institute of Management, which represents 73,000 managers, accepts that many companies have merely reaped what they have sown.

"The process of restructuring that occurred during the recession has left many companies with just their lifeboat staff," Mr Hastings said. "The result is fewer people are doing more and more work. Businesses are now asking themselves have they gone too far in taking the quick, easy route of reducing costs rather than addressing what it is about their company that creates value."

The institute is calling for a sea-change in corporate attitudes to deal with the effects of increased stress levels. "It is now time for the business community to abandon the macho and heroic image of stress and encourage greater co-operation and support," the report advocates.

The survey, which canvassed the views of nearly 1,100 managers, cites the demands of unreasonable deadlines and office politics as the most stressful work situations. Bullying and intimidation at work are identified as further causes of stress, especially for women. Other contributory factors include commuting to work, financial pressures and finding time to spend with their partner or to indulge in hobbies. Almost two-thirds of managers felt that their professional and personal lives were unsynchronised.

Physical exercise was seen as the best antidote to stress and its symptoms such as tiredness, irritability and disturbed sleep patterns. Other popular ways of switching off in the evening include talking to friends and family, aromatherapy, yoga and even playing the bagpipes.

8 Are managers under stress? A survey of management morale; The Institute of Management, 2 Savoy Court Strand, London WC2R OEZ; pounds 50 to non-members