Do we have a problem with stress related illness absenteeism?

The first Wednesday of November each year is National Stress Awareness Day. This consequently falls into International Stress Awareness Week.  So it’s no surprise that this is a topic which many organisations are focussing on. I’m sure we’ve all experienced stress in some shape or form. For some handling stressful situations is all in a day’s work and not given a second thought, possibly even thrived upon, that feeling of the heart rate rising and the need to push on and get stuff done!  However, becoming overwhelmed by stress is a completely different beast altogether. If not recognised and carefully addressed,  often leads to mental health issues which have a devastating impact on people’s lives and those around them.

There are many ways you can support someone who is feeling stressed. The hardest task is finding out about it in the first place. Not many people are willing to speak up for fear they are seen as failures or show weakness. 

15% of staff costs of running a business (acas)

The flip side of this is that some organisations may feel – if they don’t know about a problem – then clearly, there isn’t one, so why should we go looking ?  If you are one of those dinosaurs that fits into this category, we suggest looking at your absenteeism figures over the past few years and then say that you still don’t have a problem.

Identifying and supporting stressed out employees

The good news is that there are lots of positive ways you can help identify when individuals or teams are under duress. Allowing you to open up channels of communications so that any potential issues are identified at an early stage.  Giving you time to put solutions in place and take care of your employees’ wellbeing. Here’s some ways you can make a start:

1. Ask your people how they are feeling

How are you feeling at work today? – Don’t be afraid to ask the question, utilise pulse surveys – with a single question to gauge the mood.  This data will quickly give you a feel for how your workforce are performing at any particular given time. If it’s not looking too peachy, then you need to walk the floor and be visibly open, engage in conversation and see what gets thrown up in the mix.

WorkInConfidence Pulse Survey

2. Use our free guide and keep asking the questions

Carry out confidential employment engagement surveys. Analyse the results, feed back to employees and demonstrate that you will action any recommendations that come from it. Otherwise this will be perceived as a pointless ticking the box exercise , and you won’t get useful, candid, honest feedback from your staff .

We created a guide on 10 must ask questions for your next happiness questionnaire – its yours, free to use. Download here:

3. The importance of the Line Managers role

Line Managers play a crucial role in supporting staff experiencing stress or other mental health problems. By being the official contact between the Employer and the Employee they can set the tone and lead by example.  Early intervention will make it easier for a safe and quick return to work. The longer the absence, the harder the return to work is for the employee. Small businesses can benefit from the Government’s Fit for Work Programme, click on the link for their website:

4. Always remember your manners

Say “thank you” – we can never stress enough how important this is, or how companies don’t do enough of this.  Embed this into your company culture – you will be amazed at the results this simple gesture of appreciation can have on someone’s wellbeing.  You can reward staff in other ways which don’t cost the earth and are really easy to implement into your workplace.

5. Create a safe discussion zone

Create a stress awareness space – this is a brilliant idea from Mind Charity and they have plenty of resources to help you do this on their website.  These types of discussions are exactly what we designed DISCUSS and Develop for – confidential discussion board/forums where everyone can have their say, even manager’s and it’s all anonymous – how great is that!

6. Enabling your staff to feel psychologically safe

You need to communicate your willingness as an organisation to listen to your staff and advertise/promote where they can do this safely.  Implement an anonymous reporting solution for your staff to RAISE concerns of a sensitive nature or sound out creative ideas which might give you the edge over your competitors.

Many people do not feel confident speaking up in public or face to face. They may well be suffering in silence or bursting with an idea they know might save you money! They may even be contemplating leaving your workplace because of this.

If your staff don’t know where they can go for help, they will be less likely to come forward of their own free will. Make sure any communications channels in place are mentioned in your onboarding processes and advertised throughout the organisation, regularly, favourably and consitently promoted.

7. Ongoing training and development of all staff

Finally, training all levels of staff in communication skills, leadership skills,  active listening and the power of language is so important and shouldn’t be overlooked. If we all took the trouble to communicate better, it would solve some of the stress related issues in the workplace. 

In our most recent ebook: The Employer of Choice Guide to Promoting Employee Health and Wellbeing.  We explore all these points and much, much more in greater detail.  Read up on:

  • Research data
  • Be better informed from statistics in the UK around the impact of poor mental health and wellness on businesses
  • Practical advice
  • How to guides
  • Training initiatives you can implement
  • Tips on how to motivate your staff to look after their wellbeing and mental health

Download free here and start to change your culture for the better.

Let us know how you get on and if you implement any of our tips – it’s great to share good practice and spread the word from pioneering companies who are leading the way with open, honest workplace cultures. Follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn and keep up to date with all our latest news.

Protect: Anonymous Speak Up: A safe and secure way for your people to anonymously raise concerns via phone, tablet, or PC, ensuring you are aware of any workplace issues and can respond quickly and accordingly

Consolidated Case Management: A secure online place to record, track, update, and report on all speaking up matters, whether raised through WorkInConfidence or directly.

Surveys: Easily set up, run and interpret surveys on engagement, respect, wellness or other topics to ensure you always understand your people, their needs and motivations.

Discussion Boards: Demonstrate your commitment to collaboration with discussion boards to accelerate employee engagement and gain greater insights – anonymous if required.