National Stress Awareness Day highlights issue

On National Stress Awareness Day, employers have been warned that they could be doing more to tackle employee stress levels and lessen their effect on workplace productivity.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Employee Outlook Survey, conducted by YouGov, more than 90% of employees suffering from poor mental health said it affects their performance at work. In addition, 78% find it more difficult to concentrate at work as a result of their illness and 57% said they take longer to complete work.

Half of the 2,000 employees surveyed said they put off challenging tasks as a result of going in to work with poor mental health, while 46% said they are less patient with customers and clients, impacting customer service levels.

A further 41% think poor mental health interferes with their ability to make decisions and just over a third (36%) said they are more likely to get into conflict with their clients.

Ben Willmott, senior public policy adviser at the CIPD, said: “In many ways, it is the time people suffering from mental health problems spend at work that employers should focus on managing better.

“Managers are the people in organisations that should spot the early warning signs, such as changes in performance or behaviour which might indicate someone is not coping at work. Managers can ensure people with mental health difficulties are referred to occupational health where these services are available or advise them to see their GP if they have not already done so at an early stage before their problems escalate. In some cases, managers may even be able to help people cope with their problems through informal counselling.”

Employers should therefore invest in training HR teams and line managers to help identify potential issues within the workplace.

Charlotte Bray, a consultant at Aon Consulting, said: “We are beginning to see [employers] take a more proactive, self-help approach to managing stress by using employee assistance programmes for lifestyle advice and counselling. More training and workshops for managers means they can learn to identify stress at the early stages which can prevent conditions becoming chronic and are less likely to require drastic measures such as long term psychological or psychiatric help.

“In turn, this helps to reduce claims for private medical insurance and group income protection plans, while most importantly helping the employee to return to work. This needs to form part of a company’s overall wellness strategy, taking into account the objectives of the organisation and its ability to measure [return on investment] ROI.”

Click here to read how employers can tackle workplace depression

Click here for more articles on employee health and wellbeing