According to the CIPD’s annual absence management survey, stress at work is one of the top reasons for long-term absence and employees and employers have reported an increase in the incidences of workplace stress year on year. In fact, workplace stress is estimated to cost society around £3.7 billion every year in sick days and loss of productivity.
ACAS identifies several common causes including excessive demands on employees; lack of support from colleagues; poor workplace relationships; lack of clarity around employee roles; and change.
So what can employers do to try to combat or reduce stress in the workplace?
- Open lines of communication with employees are vital in combatting issues of stress. Prevention and early intervention are key.
- Introduce an employee wellbeing policy, or a stress at work policy, specifically designed to deal with any employees suffering from stress at work. The policy should set out how to work together to reduce or eliminate workplace stressors. It should outline what an employee should do when suffering from stress and what sort of assistance is available to them. Any policy should also tie in with your existing absence management, performance management and grievance policies.
- Consider what kind of support is available to employees. They should be encouraged to raise issues with their line manager / HR in the first instance and then as a grievance if necessary. Referrals to occupational health providers and confidential employee counselling services can also be helpful.
- If an issue is raised and discussed, implement any necessary action points such as changing working responsibilities or providing additional training.
- Conduct risk assessments in relation to individual roles and workplace conditions to identify and reduce stress hazards at work.
- Think about whether to accommodate flexible working requests in order to reduce particular stressors.
- Provide training for managers at all levels so that they can spot and deal with issues as and when they arise.