It is not news that stress is a leading cause of ill health, absence and spiraling healthcare costs in both the NHS and the private sector. Research conducted by QCG Consulting found that work-related stress has increased over the last 2-3 years suggesting that in 2011/12 of 27 million days lost to sickness, nearly 23 million were for work-related stress. The actual figures could be higher as stress is amongst employees who worry that acknowledging it risks their job security.
An increase in work related stress is probably an inevitable consequence of the cost cutting measures that businesses have had to implement in recent years. All employers and HR Directors want a fully engaged staff performing at their peak and ready to face challenges when the going gets tough. But do you know the scale of stress in your own workforce? How would you feel about asking them? Would you introduce a specific measure such as a stress audit?
The 2012 “Health and Wellbeing Supplement” of HR Magazine discussed how resilience to stress can be nurtured to face the manifold challenges in our modern lifestyle. Personal resilience is clearly an important issue and there can’t be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach because everyone reacts differently to different problems. We all know of cases where previously resilient managers have suffered from a reduced ability to cope at work due to family changes or have had difficulties at home during organisational change.
An element of stress or pressure can be described as enjoyable or motivational for some but it is bad news for all of us when not properly managed. Anyone who has been subject to chronic stress or has a physical condition that can worsen during stress, knows it can take a toll on emotions. This will affect our ability to think clearly, our memory and ultimately our performance and lifestyle.
Atrium Synergies recently asked the HR Director of Legal and General about awareness within large corporations of the importance of developing a level of personal resilience among the workforce, with this response:
“Trying to tackle personal resilience on its own is new. People reactively do stress management. They also focus on giving managers skills and techniques for performing well. But it’s all about how we do our jobs better rather than focusing on the individual. So the idea about personal resilience is not new but it doesn’t fit one of the traditional interventions. When we’ve got a problem we reach out for a solution. But using it to prevent a problem or just enhance performance is not common.
Stress is such a loaded term that still today most managers won’t use it, but come on, who can honestly say they never suffer from stress, they never hunch or lean over their keyboard”.
Despite the potential cost of stress to an organisation (there are varying views on the actual cost to UK industry, the QCG survey putting it at £3.7billion), how many companies have a budget available specifically to support a policy on the prevention of stress? Work-related stress is often only measured once it has become an issue and a significant cost. However we are seeing that the return on investment for pre-emptive resilience programmes is increasing with each report.
There is a buzz about the word “resilience” right now and there is just one question that every organisation needs to consider: “How well are your employees able to spring back from a disappointment or reversal?”