Workplace Stress: Dangerous, Expensive, and…Manageable?

Like many people, I was surprised to hear that we still need such a thing as an International Stress Awareness Day – isn’t every day stress awareness day?

But of course, the TUC’s data about the extent to which stress affects UK businesses is no laughing matter. In fact, as reports, sources agree that it is the biggest issue currently facing UK business. One surprising fact is that the larger the organisation, the greater the impact of workplace stress on both its employees’, and its financial, health. In organisations with under 50 staff, 58% of safety reps listed stress as their top concern; in organisations with more than 1,000 employees, however, that number jumps to 67%. That’s a potential concern for our clients, who are large companies, often with thousands of employees.

Companies are waking up to the fact that stress affects their bottom line, and indeed, that they have legal obligations under health and safety laws to consider in relation to workplace stress. Each new case of stress leads to an average of 29 days off work, and according to government figures workplace stress costs UK business an estimated £3.7 billion a year. That’s 10 per cent of the UK’s GNP. And surprisingly, as Mind reports, fewer than 10% of companies have an official policy to address the problem. However, smart companies are doing something about it. Stress is a preventable problem. Companies are recognising that the solution is to improve management skills and communication techniques in order to reduce stress levels and maximise productivity.

In most cases, we’ve found that managers who seek feedback on their performance reduce stress in the workplace more effectively than those who don’t. Our most successful clients embed a culture of continuous, constructive feedback in their management training, which leads to a sense of shared responsibility between staff and management.

The link between investing in people and increased growth can be quantified as I mentioned when I discussed the concept of joined-up performance management. When organisations implement development programmes, there is a double hit on the positive side: the tools that fight stress also maximise profits and reduce absenteeism – but they also deliver less tangible results, like a healthier, happier workforce. These benefits help managers create greater clarity and manage expectations in their communications processes, which fosters a more robust, ‘can-do’ culture in the organisation as a whole. Our clients find that the benefits far outweigh the price tag of the development programme – and help them be less stressed-out by Stress Awareness Day!

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