Stress is a silent problem for many workplaces and is frequently misunderstood or unrecognised.
Normal work pressures are only to be expected and can help to keep us motivated and engaged. However, excessive and sustained pressure can cause high levels of stress that can have a severely detrimental effect on employee wellbeing.
According to the HSE’s formal definition, work related stress is: “The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work.”
Ignored or poorly handled, it can become a blind spot that can cost your business a lot of money.
That is because it may not only lead to sickness absence, but also to staff working whilst mentally unwell, leading to low productivity and poor performance.
But just how much of an impact does this really have?
Stress at work and sickness absence
The facts on the scale and cost of stress-related sickness absence speak for themselves.
According to a recent Labour Force Survey (LFS, 2009/10-2011/12), stress is the second most common cause of long-term sickness absence after acute medical conditions such as cancer and heart attack. It is also the 4th major cause of short-term absence after minor illnesses (such as colds), musculoskeletal injuries and back pain.
Overall in 2014/15, stress accounted 43% of all working days lost due to ill health. That equates to a total of 9.9 million working days lost to stress. Unfortunately, that is not the worst of it.
Workplace stress and presenteesim
Whilst absence due to stress is clearly a huge cost to UK business, the statistics on ‘presenteeism’, or staff turning up to work ill with stress, are even more startling.
Research conducted by Legal & General found that presenteeism can cost employers three times more than sickness absence and that poor workforce wellbeing accounts for more than a quarter reduction in productivity.
So what is causing stress at work?
The causes of workplace stress tend to vary from one business to another. However, there have been several studies carried out which give us insight into the most common causes.
According to the Labour Force Survey above, respondents said workload pressures were a major factor behind stress. These included tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of support from management.
These findings were echoed in research from business psychology company, Robertson Cooper, which found that in 2011-2013 the primary cause of stress for workers was ‘not having enough time to do their job’.
Are you monitoring stress at work?
With stress having such a negative impact on staff wellbeing and productivity, one would assume that most businesses monitor and manage workplace stress. However, the CIPD absence management survey 2015 revealed that less than three-fifths of organisations were acting to identify and reduce stress in the workplace.
Bob Teasdale, Operations Director at HR software company myhrtoolkit says: “Whilst it is only part of the solution to managing stress at work, one cannot over emphasize the importance of keeping accurate and up-to-date records to monitor stress-related absence. This is important not only to support the employee but also to keep a history of how you have helped them.
“Good absence management software can also help you generate useful sickness reports to identify particular roles or departments where stress might be an issue. It can also be worth reviewing appraisal records to see if you can identify any issues raised during performance reviews that could indicate stress and how this could be addressed.”
Your best resource for tackling work related stress
From interrogating your HR management systems to conducting staff surveys, your workforce data is the perfect resource to help you take the sting out of stress. Draw on this vital knowledge bank and you’ll be able to transform stress at work from a costly blind spot into a focal point for action.
If you would like to find out how HR software can help you manage stress in the workplace request a screenshare demonstration of our absence management software.