Today, stress is unfortunately becoming a ubiquitous part of life for many people and it can have a detrimental effect on not just their personal lives but also their performance at work. But while cases of stress are on the increase and instances of long-term sickness due to mental health issues are now more frequent, many businesses still fall short in their responsibility to managing stress in the workplace.
Mental health-related problems, including stress, are often treated with kid gloves and can be seen as taboo subjects. However, failure to tackle them head on can lead to bigger issues in the long-term, such as absenteeism, loss of productivity and staff turnover.
One solution being promoted by Professor John Ashton is switching to a four-day working week to help combat high levels of work-related stress. But what else can an employer do?
Listen to your workforce
Employee surveys are a fantastic way to get feedback from your workforce. Start by proactively seeking information from the people within your organisation. This will lead to greater employee engagement and act as a motivator for your staff.
However, be prepared to act upon any recurring themes that may crop up in your surveys. Failure to make changes based on employee feedback can have a hugely negative effect.
Stress risk assessments are another great way to gather data and identify any potential stress-inducing factors within your business. These should be completed by each employee with the help of their line manager and under guidance from your organisation’s occupational health team.
Effectively manage sickness absence
Any employee absence should be accurately recorded and managed effectively. By doing this, you will not only start to identify trends but you might also uncover the underlying cause of stress-related absence.
For example, it may become apparent that stress-related absence in a particular department is much higher than others. Upon closer investigation and with feedback from employees, you may discover that there is a particular manager whose team suffer the most. Perhaps this individual has never been properly trained in how to manage employees with stress?
Return to work interviews should be conducted every time an employee is absent. Failure to undertake them may lead to vital signs being missed and opportunities for reducing stress-related absence lost.
Equipping your line managers with the necessary tools to recognise potential signs of stress and subsequently deal with it is absolutely essential. After all, these are the people who inevitably interact with your employees on a day-to-day basis and are in the best position to notice any issues.
Therefore, management training on mental health issues should be a fundamental part of your company’s on-going commitment to tackling stress and will ultimately reduce the stigma associated with it.
Regular employee-manager meetings are a vital part of this process and give the employee a platform to voice any concerns they may have. One of the keys to dealing with stress is recognising it early and acting appropriately. Referrals to occupational health departments can often resolve a stress-related issue before it turns into an absence.
Being seen as an employer who recognises the importance of work-related stress and actively looks to reduce it will improve employee engagement, reduce absenteeism and increase productivity.
In our other recent articles we have spoken about the impact of stress on absenteeism. Whilst the idea of a 4 day week is appealing in some respects, we are not sure how this will help as people may well try to rush their work leading to more mistakes and reduced output. We feel that having a clear strategy to manage stress and other workplace factors will be more beneficial.