There are at least 3 reasons why we need to take the issue of stress at work seriously and show the importance of a stress audit:
1. The Business Reason:
The 2012 CIPD Absence Management Survey identified stress as the top cause for long term absence in manual and non-manual workers. As absence is estimated to cost employers in the region of £600 per employee per year, this shows how stress actually costs money. Stress also can affect the productivity of staff who remain, so this estimate is likely to only be the tip of the iceberg. (www.cipd.co.uk)
2. The Legal Reason:
The Health and Safety Executive states that all employers have legal responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to ensure the health safety and welfare at work of their employees. This includes minimising the risk of stress-related illness or injury to employees. (www.hse.gov.uk)
3. The Moral/Ethical Reason
While cost and legal responsibility are important, many employers sincerely want to know how to reduce stress at work, while achieving organisational goals. This not only improves productivity and reduces sickness rates, but can also enhance a company's reputation as a caring employer.
The challenge faced by many is knowing how to tackle stress. As an Occupational Psychologist, I help organisations carry out Stress Audits using free HSE surveys. This is an excellent way of identifying any areas of risk in an organisation (or team/department) and provides a method of targeting solutions to specific issues. It also helps demonstrate an employer's willingness to assess the risk from a legal perspective and shows employees that management is sincerely interested in their well-being.
It is important to recognise that stress affects people in different ways and that there are different causes of work-related stress. These include high job demands, control over workload, poor support, difficult relationships, lack of role clarity and organisational change. A single factor alone doesn't mean that an employee will be stressed, but the combination of several factors can significantly increase the risk.
The good news is that sometimes small changes can make a big difference and tackling stress need not cost the earth. In some cases, even just carrying out a stress audit can begin the process of raising awareness and sends a positive message to staff, which can have an immediate impact.
For more information or advice on employment issues please contact our employment team.
Thanks to David Craigie of the Craigie Partnership for writing this blog.