A new report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) and Simply Health,[i] has highlighted that nearly two-fifths of UK businesses have seen an increase in stress related absence over the last year, with heavy workloads and poor management style to blame.
The CIPD is calling for senior leaders to prioritise wellness at work, to increase their investment in health and well-being by training managers, so they are confident and able to support staff.
“Stress is a modern day epidemic and as this report shows, it is on the rise in many business. Stress effects performance, motivation and morale and leads to increased employee absences, which are costly and disruptive.
“We agree with the CIPD that businesses must invest more wellbeing solutions to improve their staff’s physical and mental health to keep them healthy and happy. This will also help to reduce stress, but it is not the only answer. Companies need to tackle the root causes of stress they must be able to identify signs of stress and put interventions in place to stop issues escalating.”
“Investing in technology such as absence management software can help as it can enable managers to track absence and also flag up warning signs that someone may be suffering from stress, anxiety or depression. This may be people taking more days off that usual or regularly being off after the weekend or they may be behaving differently at work.”
“If managers can spot issues and evidence this using data when handling return to work interviews, it is far easier for them to initiate conversations about stress and offer support whether that is EAPs or counselling. During these conversations, managers can probe and find out if there are other issues at stake. Is there a culture of long working hours? Are people managing their workloads? If they can uncover these issues, they can make necessary changes and improvements.”
April is stress awareness month organised by the Stress Management Society[ii] to increase public awareness about stress. Adrian Lewis offers some further tips for tackling stress in the workplace:
- Change working culture if needed and improve communication around stress to reduce stigmas. Make employees feel comfortable and able to discuss issues before they start to cause problems.
- Encourage a healthy work life balance and make sure people take their holiday entitlement.
- Introduce flexible working if appropriate. Absence management technology can help manage this too, so everyone knows where people are at any given time.
- Ensure line managers are trained in recognising the signs of stress and depression.
- Take short term absences more seriously. Always complete return to work forms and follow up with a gentle return to work interview.
- During the return to work interview gently probe the given reason for absence. Do they seem tired or sad? Is there something that ‘feels’ not quite right? Occupational health can train line managers on the signs to look out for.
- Let employees know what support is available, if appropriate within the company benefits package or occupational health. Make sure employees know that the company cares about their wellbeing.