Organisational change is a top stress factor for public sector

Organisational change is one of the top three stress factors for public sector workers, according to a new survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

Its Absence Survey, published in partnership with SimplyHealth, found nearly half (56%) of public sector employers cited organisational change/restructuring as a key cause of work-related stress, compared to 34% in the private sector.

The top work-related stress factor for the public sector was workload/volumes of work, as cited by 58% of respondents, while for the private sector it was non-work factors – relationships or family.

The survey also found stress-related absence has increased for over a third of employers over the past year; 73% of manual and 79% of non-manual public sector employers cited stress as a top five common cause of absence.

This compares with nearly half (48%) of manual and 60% of non-manual private sector employers.

However, the survey found  employers are taking steps to improve the health and wellbeing of employees. Nearly half of all employers now have an employee wellbeing strategy in place (46%), which is an increase on 33% in 2009, and 30% in 2008.

Employers are also using staff surveys, flexible working options and training in stress management for managers and staff, to reduce stress levels in their organisations.

Dr Jill Miller, CIPD adviser, said: “The survey shows why closing the gap between public and private sector absence has proved so difficult for successive governments.

“Compared to the private sector, more public sector employees are in challenging public-facing roles, such as social work, policing, teaching and nursing, where they often have to deal with people in difficult and emotionally charged situations, putting pressure on their time and resilience.

“In addition, organisational change and restructuring is cited more commonly by public sector employers than those in other sectors as a major cause of stress, which will only increase in the near future as a consequence of the recent Comprehensive Spending Review.”

Helen Dickinson, head of people at Simplyhealth, said: “It is good to see the public and private sectors are putting practices in place to help reduce stress and subsequent sickness absence.

“In difficult financial times, finding the budget for this may be a concern but there are a range of relatively inexpensive methods companies can introduce such as workshops to help employees manage stress, one-to-one coaching, plus advice on how diet and exercise can help reduce stress.

“Ensuring approaches to tackling stress are integrated into the organisation’s health and wellbeing strategy is crucial to helping employees through difficult times and ensuring stress-related sickness absence does not continue to rise.”

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