We find it astonishing that so many businesses still fail to manage workplace stress despite the fact that stress accounts for the highest proportion of work related ill health absence. The latest statistics show that there are 400,000 cases of work related stress reported out of a total of 1,152 000 for all work-related illnesses.
Clearly, stress at work is a major issue that can impact on any business; but evidence suggests that it is more often a reported problem in larger companies (250+ employees). Although a big problem, the HSE identify that through management and employees working together it can be successfully managed and prevented.
The trouble is that research has shown that one of the major causes of work related stress is the impact of managers and their skills to manage staff and stress in the work place. Therefore a key focus should be on management training to equip them to deal with stress related issues before they develop into a much bigger problem.
Working with businesses it is clear that most managers are not well equipped and therefore either ignore the problem or make it worse by taking employees through the disciplinary procedures. Only recently we have been working with a company to provide training to management and to take the lead in undertaking workplace stress risk assessments.
One of the assessments was indeed initially started due to concerns over the employee’s performance and identified an underlying issue of depression. Although initially a problem that had developed outside of the workplace it became clear that work was making the situation worse. In order to address this; the H.R. department, the line manager and employee had agreed a plan to help to reduce the impact the job role was having on the employee. The problem was that the manager failed to implement the changes effectively and the employee was left feeling deflated.
The law requires employers to make reasonable adjustments if the work or workplace impacts negatively on the employee. Our role was to provide an independent and impartial assessment of the situation and to recommend what issues need to be addressed.
Providing feedback to senior management it was clear that this was not necessarily an isolated incident and that line management was not well equipped to deal with such issues. In a fast paced changing business environment it is critical that management is able to deal with such issues, otherwise the costs quickly mount up. In fact it is well recognised that failure to respond promptly generally leads to a much longer period of absence and often to the employee feeling not able to return to work.
Maybe it’s an issue you don`t feel comfortable to think about but be warned: ignore stress at your peril and make sure your business is equipped to deal with it effectively.