Stress-related absence rising

A new survey shows high levels of stress at work, with poor management being an increasing issue.



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, according to a new report.

The annual Health and Well-Being at Work Survey Report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and Simplyhealth, surveyed 1,078 people professionals. It showed having heavy workloads is the top cause of stress-related absence. The second biggest contributing factor is management style which has risen from 32% to 43% in the last year.

More than four-fifths of respondents have observed ‘presenteeism’ (going to work when ill) in their organisation and a quarter say the problem has got worse since the previous year.

Nearly two-thirds have observed ‘leaveism’ (such as using holiday leave to work) in their organisation. More than half say their organisation hasn’t taken any steps to address the issue.

The survey records the lowest number of average sick days (5.9 per employee per year) in the 19-year history of the report.

The report also shows that only 50% of managers have undergone training to support their staff to better manage stress. It says that, out of the minority of organisations taking action to tackle leaveism and presenteeism, only 37% of managers have been trained to spot the warning signs of either.

Fewer than a third say that senior leaders encourage a focus on mental well-being through their actions and behaviours.

In response to the report’s findings, the CIPD is calling for senior leaders to prioritise wellness at work. It is encouraging greater investment in health and well-being by training managers so they are confident and competent to support staff.

Xpert HR has highlighted areas employers should address to reduce stress. They include working with line managers to review each job and the way it is done with a view to introducing improvements wherever possible and ensuring that workloads, targets and deadlines are realistic. It says line managers should make sure that every employee restricts their working hours to a reasonable level and takes regular breaks and annual leave and employees should be offered flexibility over their working hours and working patterns whenever possible. Other suggestions include supporting and training staff with regard to stress management, including offering employees training in personal stress management, preventing and taking prompt action on bullying and encouraging two-way communications between managers and employees, including regular feedback.

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