Organisations have seen a 37% increase in stress related absences* in 2018 and it is one of the causes of long term sickness absence. HSE defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’. Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work and must take all reasonable steps to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees. Organisations need to understand the causes of stress, recognise the signs, access the risks and put measures into place to support their employees.
Causes of stress
Workload* accounts for 60% of stress related absences with employees feeling unable to cope with the demands of the job. Stress is mental state we experience when there is a mismatch between perceived demands -v- perceived ability to cope. What stress means to one person, will mean something different to someone else. Factors such as personality, beliefs, expectations, skills and experience play a part in how people interpret a situation. All employees must fully understand their role within the organisation and responsibilities must be clearly defined.
Management* style accounts for 32% of stress related absences due to poor relationships and lack of support. Poor line management also causes low productivity levels and high staff turnover. Managers have the greatest influence on staff performance, morale and engagement within their organisation. Therefore, they need to promote a positive working environment encouraging colleagues to support one another and address any unacceptable behaviour. Feeling connected and developing good working relationships in the workplace is vital to support mental wellbeing.
Signs of stress
Managers need to look out for the signs of stress and reduce or move the causes. Signs of stress include frequent absences, coming in late for work, decrease in performance, loss of confidence, increased emotional reactions and mood swings. Stress also reduces mental performance, impairs judgement and results in poor decision making.
Wellbeing should be on the agenda in all one to one meetings to address any issues and to provide employees with the support they need. Managers must be able to listen to concerns, show empathy, communicate clearly and offer solutions e.g. support to manage workload, reduce pressure points, minimise workplace distractions, offer flexible hours or change of location. Identify if there are any training needs, or if additional support is required, such as job shadowing or providing a mentor.
Managers are key to driving a culture of wellbeing and must lead by example. They must encourage employees to invest in their physical and mental wellbeing by taking a break at lunchtime, promote a work/life balance and ensure staff use their full holiday allocation.
Ensure employees feel appreciated in the workplace and treat colleagues with kindness. The simple act of saying ‘thank-you’ goes a long way.
Investing in the wellbeing of employees to create a culture of wellness, will ensure that employees are happy, engaged and productive at work and will have a positive impact on revenue.