Managing stress is employers’ number one health and wellbeing priority

Managing stress is employers' number 1 wellbeing priorityBeing ‘stressed’ can describe a whole range of conditions; from having a particularly demanding working day to feeling cripplingly anxious and depressed. Although there are still an awful lot of managers out there who dismiss the term as a shirker’s excuse, it’s a condition that must be taken seriously. Stress accounts for a massive 40 per cent of all workplace absences, but it is also the underlying cause of many other conditions that lead to staff staying off work. This is why the 40 per cent of employers that now routinely record the secondary cause of absence alongside the primary stated reason for long-term sick leave are realising the huge impact mental health plays from the outset. It’s behind the growing recognition on the need for early intervention strategies to help support people to manage these conditions and encourage them to maintain a work/life balance.

Research carried out by Group Risk Development (GRiD) has found that almost half of UK employers questioned (45%) considered stress and mental ill health a major cause of long-term absence amongst their employees, with 25 per cent saying it is a major cause of absence in the short term too.

Unsurprisingly, the employers’ polled were concerned about the impact of stress and mental ill health on their business, with 36 per cent of those sampled seeing managing stress and mental ill health as their top health and wellbeing issue. A further quarter (25%) thought that maintaining a good work/life balance amongst employees was a top priority.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, the trade body for the group risk industry, commented: “Where once stress and mental ill health were commonly overlooked as a key health risk for businesses (compared to acute medical conditions such as heart attack or cancer) employers appear to be taking note. These figures prove just how big an impact stress and mental ill health can have on employers when managing the well-being of their business and the implications for absence rates if left unchecked.

“It is encouraging to see that more and more businesses are recognising that stress related absence is a major issue. Often, the condition keeping people away from work is not necessarily the same as the condition that caused the initial absence. Many employers are now recording the secondary cause of absence as part of the measures they use to reduce absence in the workplace. “