Employee stress – Ticking time bomb?
Thanks to a potent combination of both professional and personal issues, one in four employees has taken time off work due to stress in the last year – a figure which has been described as an employee stress ‘time bomb’.
Despite this worrying statistic, half of employees have admitted that they would not approach their employer with stress-related worries. With it being National Stress Awareness Month 2018, Brian Hall, Chief Commercial Officer at BHSF, explains why employers need to take a proactive approach to employee wellbeing, and focus on creating a more resilient workforce.
A report by BHSF titled ‘Breaking the Cycle’, paints a devastating portrait of how professional and personal stress-triggers are directly leading to mental health issues and absenteeism on an unprecedented scale, which is, unfortunately, being chronically under-estimated by employers.
‘Breaking the Cycle’ describes the vicious cycle employees and their employers are caught in, which begins with a gradual build-up of stress, both inside and outside work, leading onto job performance issues, absenteeism and ultimately, long-term sick leave.
The report highlights how productivity is being impacted when employees go into work, despite suffering from illness or mental health issues. In fact, nearly two thirds (63 percent) of the UK’s working population say that stress keeps them awake at night, leaving them physically and mentally unable to perform their duties.
However, the findings also demonstrate that the stigma of stress or mental health issues is still very much alive within the workplace. More than half of respondents admitted that they would not approach their employer with a mental health issue, with only 17 percent of workers benefiting from employer mental health initiatives.
The continuing reluctance to approach employers with stress or mental health issues is hiding the true scale of the problem. Many of the issues that contribute to stress are outside an employer’s direct control, but those issues are clearly having an impact on productivity and employee performance.
One of the key areas of concern highlighted in the report is the lack of a financial safety net for many employees, in the form of income protection or sick pay insurance. The figures speak for themselves, with 71 percent of respondents admitting that their company offers no support, above and beyond statutory sick pay, and more than 80 percent have no personal sick pay or income protection policy.
To conclude, the objective of this research is not to blame employers, but to help them gain a much better understanding of the issues involved and, hopefully, encourage a more proactive approach to employee wellbeing. In the long-term this approach can help build a much more resilient workforce, able to withstand the pressures of modern life and, ultimately, improve productivity.
Take a more proactive approach to employee wellbeing with these simple tips:
Lead by example – Managers must actively promote a healthy lifestyle, including a good work/life balance, and encourage employees to think about their own wellbeing. This could be as simple as taking allocated annual leave and having a lunch break away from your desk, for example.
Provide an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) – An EAP can help employees deal with any personal problems which might impact their performance, health or wellbeing, reduce ‘presenteeism’ and even improve employee retention. The BHSF EAP provides an employee helpline which is available all year round with access to a counselling service which offers professional support and advice.
Spot the warning signs – Often, the signs that an employee is struggling are there and simply by training line managers to spot potential symptoms, the lines of communication can be opened, issues can be resolved, additional support provided, and employee wellbeing improved.
Give employees a ‘safety net’ – Injury and illness can be disastrous from a financial wellbeing point of view. For many families, debt and financial hardship are triggered by being unable to work and sadly, not having a back-up plan when it comes to paying the bills. Employers are well placed to ensure members of their workforce are protected if the worst should happen.
Download the Breaking the Cycle report here: www.bhsf.co.uk/employeestress