Broker wellbeing: Stress levels rise for a fifth year running

10 October 2023

Brokers are feeling more stressed than ever, with nearly four out of five admitting feeling stressed at work, Ecclesiastical’s latest Broker Wellbeing Survey can reveal.

The annual survey, published to coincide with World Mental Health Day, saw stress levels rise for the fifth year running, with 79% saying they have felt stressed at work in the past 12 months. Anxiety levels have also peaked following a steady rise since 2020, with almost half (48%) of brokers suffering in the past 12 months.
Despite this, the report found much to be optimistic about. Brokers are more confident recognising the signs of stress and are more likely to talk to their manager about their mental health. The survey also found a big increase in broker firms investing in their wellbeing programmes.

Causes of stress

Heavy workloads remain the biggest contributor to stress levels, cited by three-quarters of brokers (75%) but there has been a big rise in the number of brokers blaming the volume of regulation, from 45% in 2021 to 67% in 2023. 
Dealing with insurers is the third biggest contributory factor to stress levels, which has shot up from 39% in 2021 to 59% in 2023, overtaking customer demands (56%) for the first time since the survey was launched. 
Staff shortages and recruitment issues are still an issue for firms, with two in five brokers (41%) saying it was an issue. 
As one broker put it: “Not being able to offload work to junior staff, due to recruitment difficulties, means I have to do more myself. I've recently been given extra clients to manage, and my workload has never been so huge."

Managing stress

Most brokers (94%) are confident in recognising the signs of poor mental health in themselves. This has steadily increased over the past five years. Most (92%) also believe they have the tools and techniques to deal with everyday stresses, which has remained consistent year-on-year. 
One in six (16%) brokers who had experienced a mental health issue said they had sought support from a health professional.

Positive progress

Despite the increase in stress and anxiety levels, the findings saw positive momentum in several areas, with broker firms stepping up investment in their wellbeing programmes.
The number of brokers who believe their brokerage is supportive of people with mental health issues rose for the fifth year running, up from 70% in 2019 to 82% this year.
Also rising for a fifth year was the number of brokers who feel comfortable talking to their manager about their mental health, from 52% in 2019 to 75% in 2023.
This is supported by a big increase in the number of firms offering wellbeing support to employees. Firms offering mental health awareness training for staff rose 13% to 44%, while more firms are offering confidential helplines (43% up from 34% in 2022), counselling support (39% up from 31% in 2022), and employee assistance programmes (39% up from 30% in 2022)
Three quarters (74%) of brokers believe their firm is committed to improving wellbeing, consistent with previous years, while the number of brokers who believe their firm is committed to reducing the stigma of mental health fell slightly to 66% (69% in 2022) but remains above pre-2021 levels.

Awareness and understanding

Awareness of mental health issues has risen for the fifth year with an average score of 6.6 out of 10, up from 6.4 last year and 5.7 when the survey began in 2019. Understanding of mental health issues also rose to its highest level – 5.9 (out of 10) compared to 5.6 last year. Nearly half (47%) of brokers believe there is a high acceptance of mental health issues in the broker industry.
When asked to comment on the issue, it was clear that brokers are divided on the industry’s progress to date:
“There is more awareness than ever before, but still more progress is needed.”
“Covid and working from home have changed everything; old attitudes have fallen away and there is now much greater awareness, understanding and acceptance of mental health issues.”
“The bigger firms are aware of the issue but there are thousands of smaller brokerages who haven't changed for decades.”

Supporting brokers

Ecclesiastical is working with specialist consultancy Mental Health in Business (MHIB) to support brokers with managing stress and building resilience.  Together they have run a series of webinars and mental health first aid training to support broker firms.
Adrian Saunders, Commercial Director at Ecclesiastical, said: “Our fifth annual Broker Wellbeing Survey has found that awareness and understanding of mental health issues among brokers is higher than ever - but so unfortunately are stress and anxiety levels. Some of the reasons for this are systemic – labour market shortages are making it difficult to recruit the right people, which in turn is creating heavier workloads for brokers, while increased regulation is piling even more pressure on.”
“Positively more brokerages are investing in their wellbeing programmes, providing much-needed support for employees, and continuing the upward trend of the past few years. There is also a greater openness in the workplace with more brokers willing to talk about their issues with managers and colleagues. This is a real positive, as more dialogue around mental wellbeing can help to instigate positive change within the sector.”
FWD carried out research among 250 brokers Aug – Sep 2023
Broker wellbeing [side image]