Tackling the problem of workplace stress

Stress-related absence has increased over the last year in nearly two-fifths of organisations, but more and more employers are taking steps to identify and tackle it. Simplyhealth explores what businesses can do to help their employees stress less

Workplace wellbeing research from the CIPD and Simplyhealth shows that 70 per cent of UK organisations design wellbeing activity to promote mental health. This figure is up from 63 per cent in 2018. 

We see good reason for the upward trend, when stress-related absence has increased over the last year in nearly two-fifths of organisations. Mental ill-health and stress are also cited as significant causes of short- and long-term absence. Several factors contribute to the prevalence of workplace stress, but two consistently come out on top. Heavy workloads are by far the most common cause identified by almost two-thirds of employers. And nearly half of organisations blame management style for workplace stress. 

The good news is more and more organisations are taking steps to identify and tackle stress – currently around three-quarters. Those organisations that have wellbeing on senior leaders’ agendas or a standalone wellbeing strategy, are more likely to take steps. Flexible working and providing access to an EAP are common methods to address workplace stress, but manager training is another important area to consider. Managers play a crucial role in maintaining workplace wellbeing, and it’s important for them to be able to spot signs that someone’s struggling, and signpost that person to further help and support.

Despite all the great work we see employers doing to tackle workplace stress, less than half believe that their efforts are effective. There may be room for improvement, but we also shouldn’t underestimate the importance of empowering our workforces to take care of their own wellbeing, and in turn fostering a supportive and healthy culture where workplace stress can be better managed.

We’ve created a guide to how work-related stress affects employees, helping businesses take action for better mental wellbeing. 

All figures are taken from the CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Well-being at Work 2019 report.