Businesses are experiencing a variety of challenges in these economic times with shrinking markets, increased competition and competitiveness. For many however these are further compounded by issues such as employee absence, under performance and engagement.
Studies undertaken in the European Union suggest that more than 1 in 4 workers are affected by stress and that between 50% and 60% of lost working days are related to this. This year the biggest workplace health and safety survey in Europe showed that 79% of European managers are concerned by workplace stress, but less than a third of organisations have set up procedures to deal with it. The survey further suggested that for many managers workplace stress is a difficult topic for them to address due to sensitivities and a lack of awareness.
While different sectors, and specific roles by their nature, are impacted more severely than others resulting in many employees experiencing significant stress emotional exhaustion and burnout. This can lead to experienced staff leaving their jobs which can impact greatly on their organisations.
Absent Management Surveys in the UK this year have revealed for the first time stress is the most common cause of long term absence for manual and non – manual employees. Employee’s surveyed identified organisational changes and restructuring as the number one cause of absence as a result of stress at work and together with job insecurity, increased workloads, management style role changes, relationships at work and non-work factors as further contributors.
Clearly there are very few organisations that have not experienced some sort of organisational change, and in many instances job losses, in the recent past. For many employees job security continues to be on their radar as long as the economic climate remains uncertain and where the jobs market remains low. It’s not surprising therefore that stress is having such an impact in the workplace.
To quantify further the impact of absenteeism IBEC (Irish Business and Employers Confederation) published a report recently indicating that 11 million days were lost to business in 2010 at a cost of € 1.5 billion with an average of 5.98 days absence per employee recorded.
While taking into consideration the impact of work place stress in terms of absenteeism what is more difficult to quantify, and equally challenging for businesses, is the impact of reduced employee performance and engagement while remaining in the workplace.
The issue of workplace stress will continue to remain a challenge for business leaders and managers until a greater understanding of the topic is made and actions undertaken to address the issue to ensure continued employee well being, engagement and significantly improving performance and business success.