Poor management has led to spike in stress absence

Stress-related absence has increased for two-fifths of organisations in the past year, according to new research from the CIPD and Simplyhealth.

Almost two-thirds (62%) of respondents to the survey said that heavy workloads were the top cause of taking time off for stress. The next biggest factor was management style – which has jumped from 32% of respondents last year to 43% this year.

A worrying trend observed by the 1,000-plus respondents was “leaveism”, the practice of taking annual leave to finish off work. Most respondents – 63% – saw this happening at their workplace, and 55% of these said nothing was being done about it.

Presenteeism continues to be an issue for 83% of respondents, with a quarter saying the problem has got worse in the past year.

Despite stress and poor management being cited more often as a reason for absence, the number of days taken is at its lowest in the 19-year history of the report, at 5.9 per employee, per year.

The report’s findings suggest managers could do with more training to support staff with stress. Only 50% of managers had undergone this type of training, according to the CIPD. And in organisations taking steps to tackle either presenteeism or leaveism, only 37% of managers had received any training to spot the warning signs.

“Managers should be helping to alleviate stress among their staff, not contributing to it,” said Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD. “But too many managers are being set up to fail because they haven’t received adequate training, despite them often being the first person employees will turn to when they have a problem.

“Rates of presenteeism and leaveism, which are both linked to stress, remain stubbornly high. Employers have a responsibility to tackle these bad habits. They must also realise that staff are not going to perform at their best if they are working when ill or using up holiday to work rather than recharge.”

The CIPD added that senior leaders needed to do more to gain managers’ buy-in on the importance of wellbeing. Only half of respondents said that senior leaders had done enough, with many questioning how they can implement health and wellbeing policies in their own teams without senior-level buy-in.

Fewer than a third (32%) said that senior leaders encourage a focus on mental wellbeing through their actions and behaviours.

“Line managers play a front-line role and are often best placed to support with health and wellbeing, but this year’s report shows there is more work to be done to better support them with training and guidance,” said Pam Whelan, director of corporate at Simplyhealth.

“In addition, there are further steps organisations can take to help reduce stress-related absence and encourage a preventative approach.

“Fostering a culture where employees feel they can seek support when they need it is key, and initiatives such as offering an employee assistance programme and flexible working arrangements can help improve an employee’s work/life balance.”

2 Responses to Poor management has led to spike in stress absence

  1. Avatar
    Mr John A Gelmini 9 Apr 2019 at 7:44 am #

    Line managers are only part of the solution in that they cannot give the stressed employee an enabling personal philosophy which provides a genuine coping mechanism and renders the employee mentally tough.
    Secondly, people without adequate sleep, a decent diet, sufficient exercise and who engage in too much drinking will not be able to cope with life.
    In this country alcohol consumption is the highest in the world outside of Lithuania, sleep deprivation of 2 hours a day is normal, our woman are the fattest in Western Europe and our men are 4th fattest and “coming up fast on the rails”.
    Eating after 7.00pm adds to the problem and the excess alcohol knocks essential vitamins out of the body leading to headaches, depression and lower worker productivity.
    Human resource professionals should be aware of all these things as should line managers and directors.
    It is clear that 80% of them are blissfully ignorant and that most of the rest do not see these matters as anything that should concern them.
    This laissez faire approach is costing the country billions in lost exports, sales, profits and market share and it can spell the difference between being profitable and descending into zombie status (1.8 million UK companies registered at Companies House out of 6.5 million fit this description).
    Getting employees and managers mindfit would help along with sensible and forcefully directed guidance from the top downwards plus the setting of proper example by directors who need to demonstrate in their own working lives full understanding of these and related issues

    • Avatar
      Rachel 18 Apr 2019 at 6:03 pm #

      I agree with everything you have said. I find it really frustrating to be made to feel responsible for a persons wellbeing at work when they do everything they can to destruct it outside of work. We provide a free on-site gym and have private health care that covers mental health needs – yet time and time again people are either absent from work or working ineffecitvely because of physical and mental health issues that I feel powerless to help with. All I can do is point them in the right direction and hope for the best.

      Yes business does have a duty of care – but what is the golden bullett when laying all the tools out go ignored.

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