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Six ways of combating stress at work

After minor illness, stress is the second most common cause of short-term absence from work. Paul Tooth, CEO of BrightHR, looks at how to go about combating stress in the workplace.
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According to the latest figures from the CIPD, 47 per cent of short-term absences and 53 per cent of long-term absences are due to stress. Surprising? Taking into account that the average employee is absent 6.3 days per year due to stress, it can actually cost the UK economy £6.5bn a year. Combating stress should thus be high on any business owner’s list of priorities.

The CIPD figures are even more concerning for SME bosses as employees taking time off can have a detrimental effect on business. But, whilst these figures may be headline catchers, it is important to remember that behind the financial statistics there is also the human factor. Business owners must focus on the person affected, as well as the financial implications.

It was also found by the CIPD that a third of those who include stress among their top five causes of absence are not taking steps to address it. Not only that, but a third of respondents reported an increase in stress related absence over the last year.

It isn’t all bad news though. Just over three-fifths of UK organisations are currently identifying and combating stress. But the overall response from businesses has been mixed, with employers taking a reactive approach to employees’ mental health problems, rather than a preventative one. So how do you go about combating stress?

1) Understanding the cause and recognising the signs

There are a number of reasons why workers may become stressed. Workload and management style are two work-related reasons, but most of the time it is not all to do with work – non-work factors also play a huge part. After all, your employees don’t switch off their life problems just because they’re at work.

Signs of stress can be subtle to begin with. Anything from changes in appetite, sleep problems and headaches, right through to irritability and mood swings. If left, these can grow and, ultimately, lead to workers taking time off, a weakened immune system with greater susceptibility to minor ailments, and potentially long-term physical and mental issues. And the first step towards combating stress in the workplace, is recognising what can cause it, as well as when your employees might be suffering.

2) Encourage positive workplace relationships

One of the most important ways of combating stress is by developing and nurturing workplace relationships. As mentioned, the early signs of stress can be quite subtle and many people will keep any feelings of stress under wraps for fear of negative reactions. However, if you have a good relationship with your employees you may be able to spot subtle changes and ensure the worker is supported as much as possible. What’s more, by developing these relationships, employees themselves may come forward to you with stress-related concerns.

Carry on for points three to six.

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