It’s International Stress Awareness Day today – 1st November – an annual event centred on stress and stress prevention and promoting the importance of wellbeing for individuals and organisations.
Some stress is natural but it’s important to recognise the symptoms and monitor stress levels. Organisations that genuinely promote and value the health and well-being of employees will benefit from improved engagement and retention of employees with consequent gains in performance and productivity.
Measure and monitor
Work-related stress is defined as a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work. Labour Force Surveys show:
- The total number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2015/16 was 488,000 cases, a prevalence rate of 1510 per 100,000 workers.
- The number of new cases was 224,000, an incidence rate of 690 per 100,000 workers. The estimated number and rate have remained broadly flat for more than a decade.
- The total number of working days lost due to this condition in 2015/16 was 11.7 million days. This equated to an average of 23.9 days lost per case. Working days lost per worker showed a generally downward trend up to around 2009/10; since then the rate has been broadly flat.
- In 2015/16, stress accounted for 37% of all work-related ill health cases and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health.
- Stress is more prevalent in public service industries, such as education; health and social care; and public administration and defence.
- By occupation, jobs that are common across public service industries (such as healthcare workers; teaching professionals; business, media and public service professionals) show higher levels of stress as compared to all jobs.
- The main work factors cited by respondents as causing work-related stress, depression or anxiety (LFS) were workload pressures, including tight deadlines and too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support
Wellbeing at work
Health and safety legislation imposes on employers a duty to undertake risk assessments and manage activities to reduce the incidence of stress at work.
The emotional and physical wellbeing of your workforce is reflected in levels of absenteeism. Well-being at work encompasses general mental health and wellbeing in terms of levels of happiness, trust, engagement and “presenteeism”. Although the financial impact of these aspects of work is difficult to evaluate, there is research that links workplace wellbeing to long-term financial success.
Here are five steps you can take to address stress in your workplace:
- Ensure you have plan in place to manage stress in the workforce
- Undertake an audit of the workplace to identify potential stressors, such as unrealistic workloads and schedules
- Train line managers in mental health awareness
- Launch a good mental health promotion campaign
- Audit absences and make sure you understand the reasons for them.