Research: strategies to deal with employee stress

The recession has raised staff stress levels, but almost two-thirds of employers do not have a strategy to deal with the problem, says Debbie Lovewell


Stress remains a common problem for many employers, often boosting sickness absence rates. Even if employees do remain at work, stress can lead to reduced staff performance and productivity. But despite this, a relatively low number of employers have a specific strategy in place to deal with stress in the workplace.

The number of organisations that do has fluctuated little over the years. Back in our healthcare survey conducted in 2000, 41% of respondents said they had implemented a strategy to combat stress.

In many cases, stress can be attributed to factors impacting on staff outside the work environment, as demonstrated by the fact that 88% of respondents that have a specific strategy to tackle the problem were encouraged to do so in response to the current economic downturn.

Concerns for staff wellbeing also remain a significant factor behind employers’ decisions to implement a strategy to combat stress. This has remained consistent over the past five years.

However, concerns over productivity have dropped down employers’ agendas, having been overtaken by a fear of legal claims from employees, and high sickness absence figures. Of the benefits that employers offer to combat stress, employee assistance programmes and other forms of counselling remain the most popular, followed by policies on bullying and harassment.

These have remained fairly consistent over the past 10 years, despite slight fluctuations. Over the past five years, many employers have introduced flexible working arrangements in a bid to tackle stress. This may be a direct result of the introduction of family-friendly legislation aimed at helping working parents to achieve a better work-life balance. The development of technology has also helped by making it easier for staff to work away from the traditional workplace.

Click on the links below for more sections:

Research: who are the respondents; key findings
Research: attitudes to health and wellbeing
Research: the package
Research: what impact health and wellbeing perks have on sickness absence
Research: healthcare costs and calculating return on investment
Research: how employers deal with legislation change