What are the stats when it comes to the cost of stress in the workplace? And what are the challenges? Jo Milston explores
The Cost of Stress in the Workplace
In 2016, stress accounted for 45% of all working days lost due to ill health. Surprised? So are we. Although the level has stayed relatively stable for more than a decade, this still represents a shocking 11.7 million working days lost per year, or 24 days per case. These are real statistics from the HSE’s most recent Labour Force Survey, published in November 2016.
At a prevalence rate of 1.5%, the cost of stress to an organisation with 20,000 employees can be estimated at over £900,000 every year. This just looks at the cost of absence - what it doesn't consider is the cost of reduced productivity whilst people are at work, or the increased cost of employee turnover in the form of recruitment, training and learning curve costs when people leave. Needless to say, that's a big chunk off the bottom line.
Some of the other interesting findings which this study has thrown up include the fact that:
There were 488,000 cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016, or 1,510 cases per 100,000 population. 224,000 of these cases were newly diagnosed during the year
By occupation, business and media roles are amongst those which show higher levels of stress on average. Those falling within the “professional” category show the highest levels of all
People working for large organisations are generally more stressed out than their SME counterparts
Those with a higher level of education and women also tend to suffer more
80% of workers admit to feeling stressed in the past year
This presents a clear business case for change.
People commonly attribute the root of their woes to the modern day pressures of heavy workload and tight deadlines, as well as interpersonal relationships. Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, says “When you look at the causes of stress the top result is workload, followed by non-work factors such as the personal life and family. We often see it is the combination of work and non-work stress factors that causes people to feel they are unable to cope.”
Trying To Do More With Less
In an environment where employers want to get the best value from their people, it is easy to see how the strain can build. In the wake of the financial crisis, companies are focusing more than ever on the quality of their bottom line. As they look to maximise profitability through restructuring activities and streamlining costs, they face the conundrum of continually trying to achieve more with less. If not managed well, this focus on efficiency can come at a cost to employee satisfaction and personal effectiveness. Long hours and increased responsibility bring with them burnout and stress that inevitably leads to reduced productivity.
So how do we deal with this issue in modern corporate culture? This is a notoriously difficult challenge. There is a lot to be said about the “tone at the top”, or how senior leaders set about shaping the environment within their companies when it comes to values such as honesty, integrity and ethical behaviour. If the senior management team can be seen to demonstrate a high level of awareness and openness towards stress in the workplace, eventually this will percolate throughout the whole organisation.
Solid Solutions & The Corporate Disconnect
In addition to the challenge posed by the modern corporate environment, there is an apparent inconsistency between companies’ messaging around employee wellbeing and mental health and the existence of a solid set of solutions offered.
In a recent survey conducted by Business In The Community in partnership with YouGov, 77% of respondents said that they had experienced symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety, with 62% of those citing work as a factor. Despite this, it found that 63% of managers still felt obliged to put their organisation’s interests above those of their team members.
This is not to say that line managers don’t have their employees best interests in mind, as 72% of line manager believe employee wellbeing is their responsibility. However there may be more that employers can do to enable this – currently only 22% have received some form of training on mental health at work.
“There is a clear disconnect between the ideals of company bosses and the reality of employees when it comes to mental health. Most board members believe their organisation is supportive on the issue, but 56% of people who have disclosed a mental health issue at work said their employer took no mitigating actions” says Norman Lamb, Lib Dem Health Spokesman.
The Challenge To Address
The challenge is therefore twofold. First of all, dealing with the “tone at the top” and ensuring that the message is spread effectively throughout the organisation. Secondly, companies should walk the walk, by putting in place solid solutions that employees can benefit from.
The challenge is also balancing the need for a streamlined business with the pressure it exerts on people to perform. This doesn’t mean expecting less from people, but it does mean designing and putting in place good solutions for them to better cope with their day to day. As well as offering training & development to help managers identify and address issues regarding employee stress, wellbeing programmes have been shown to increase employee satisfaction and productivity.
We spend a significant amount of our lives at work, yet research has found that the time we spend there is generally the least happy of our lives. We often spend more time with our colleagues than we spend with our other halves, therefore it is important that we spend this time well. By championing wellbeing in your organisation, no matter what your role and position, you’re one step closer to making your organisation a better place to be.
EVENT: Mindfulness In The Workplace - The Business Case
45% of sick days taken in the UK are due to stress, indicating that for large business, the cost can run into the millions. Mindfulness & yoga are now scientifically proven to reduce stress and a growing body of research demonstrates how this applies directly to the work environment. This informative event includes a presentation by our Founder on the key stats as well as the opportunity to network and share views with like minded business people who are passionate about the subject.
More information and tickets available here.
About Urban Guru:
We improve the efficiency of your workforce. Our corporate yoga & mindfulness workshops lower employee stress, helping your people find balance in a hectic world.
Our workshops are provided direct to your employees onsite, making the benefits easy to access. As an employer of choice, you can give them the opportunity to take a short break from the relentless working day, to reset and relax…
Urban Guru's corporate yoga & mindfulness offering is specifically designed to strengthen the body and de-clutter the mind. This in turn makes your people more resilient to stress and better able to cope with the challenges thrown their way. Overall it helps you make the most of what they have to offer.