November 4th is National Stress Awareness Day (NSAD), coordinated annually by the International Stress Management Association (ISMA).
Having run NSAD since 1998, the theme this year is Employee Wellbeing as a Worthwhile Investment in Your Business and events are running up and down the country to promote the benefits of reducing workplace stress.
Hardly a day goes by without a news report, survey or piece of research that shows that stress is having a serious impact on the wellbeing of many people, not only in this country but across the world.
- A survey conducted by LV shows that 1 in 4 workers have taken time off with stress
- A survey conducted by CV Library shows British workers feel overworked and underappreciated
- A survey conducted by Yougov for Mind shows that millions of UK staff are experiencing high levels of stress
- A study by Harvard researchers showed that a stressful workplace can take 33 years off your life expectancy
- Research in China shows workplace stress causes an increased risk of having a stroke
For businesses there are measureable impacts to all this workplace stress. Research in this country shows:
- The total number of cases of stress in the UK in 2011/12 was 428,000, or 40% of all work-related illnesses
- The cost of stress related absence to business is £3.7 billion
So the aim of this year’s NSAD, to show businesses that there are genuine benefits to having a healthy & happy workforce, should be taken seriously. The Health and Safety Executive have outlined a number of benefits to tackling workplace stress including:
- Reduced staff turnover and intention to leave, so improving retention
- Better absence management
- Fewer days lost to sickness and absenteeism
- Fewer accidents
- Improved work quality
- Improved organisational image and reputation
Benefits for individuals
- People feel more motivated and committed to their work
- Morale is high
- People work harder and perform better – increasing their earning power
- People feel that they are part of a team and the decision-making process, so accept change better
- Relationships – with managers and within teams – are better
- People are happy in their work and don’t want to leave
- Lower risks of litigation – because they comply with legal duties
- Improved return on investment in training and development
- Improved customer care and relationships with clients and suppliers
- Reduced costs of sick pay, sickness cover, overtime and recruitment
- Better staff understanding and tolerance of others experiencing problems
Getting it right in your workplace
So, if you are an employer or manager, or perhaps you are part of a workforce and want to help tackle stress in your workplace and improve wellbeing, how do you go about it?
I would strongly recommend that you start by taking a look at the ISMA Charter. This document clearly outlines how to develop a positive working culture in any organisation, regardless of size. It includes a range of behaviours and attitudes that all members of a team can work towards, developing a culture of trust, respect, openness and fairness.
Secondly, I would read and implement How to tackle work-related stress by the HSE. This documents uses a management standards approach to help employers manage the causes of work-related stress. Again, it requires a whole organisation approach and a commitment from all to evaluate and understand the causes of stress in that company. The document then advises that a process of monitoring and review is implemented to make sure that standards are maintained.