How to reduce stress-related sick leave: Mental Health Spotlight

How to reduce stress-related sick leave: Mental Health Spotlight

Reducing Stress Related Sick Leave

1 in 6 workers are dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress [Mind]

Employers can influence workplace culture and individual pressures to reduce work-related stress. At the same time, organisations can introduce wellbeing strategies which support employees with mental health conditions and stress; which can be influenced by factors inside and outside of the workplace.

Stress statistics from the workplace

Stress is a huge contributor to absenteeism. Here’s what the stats are saying

  • 76% of organisations reported stress-related absences.
  • Heavy workloads were the most common cause of stress at work and strongly linked to burnout.
  • Conflicts with ‘superiors’ appear to be an important risk factor for sick leave among employees, a new study from the Norwegian Institute of Occupational Health (STAMI) reveals.
  • 55% of workers feel work is getting more intense and demanding [MHFA].
  • Financial stress is having a big effect, 40% of people with a mental health problem say that financial pressures worsen it.
  • 10% of manager’s stress translates into employee stress (BMC Public Health) through emotional contagion and employees also spread anxiety through their teammates ‘like a virus’.

There are several ways you can reduce stress at work by creating an open working culture that welcomes wellbeing conversations.

As well as reducing sick leave, by investing in workplace wellbeing can also improve employee engagement, increased productivity, encourage innovation through idea generation and promote employee retention.

The workplace wellbeing paradox

The CIPD has uncovered a workplace wellbeing paradox. Despite there being more workplace health and wellbeing services available, employees’ mental health issues are increasing. What’s more senior leadership’s interest in wellbeing at work has been waning in the past few years.

Senior leaders have a strong influence over wellbeing at work and company culture. Their active support for any effective wellbeing programme is critical.

Mental Health outside of the workplace

Not all stress-related absences are caused to work itself, everything from financial stress to family concerns can add pressure and it’s important your team feel able to share how they are feeling so you can provide support or signpost effectively at the earliest opportunity.

Helping employees with their individual needs

Your team are going through a lot, from the menopause to bereavement, caring for parents or elderly relatives, sick leave through pregnancy and for conditions relating to men’s health. Being aware of these, as shown by the CIPD report, helps you understand how you can support your team better.

Improve communication: Through management skills

Only 39% of employees would tell their managers the truth about their reason for taking sick leave if the reason was mental-health related compared to 77% if it was for physical health [AXA PPP]. It’s important to create a culture of trust and empathy.

Make time during your 1-2-1 for wellbeing conversations, ask open questions, really listen, try and identify the root cause of workplace stress, and other sources, and work on possible solutions together.

Line managers play a big role and can help lower absenteeism by being approachable, listening and signposting accordingly. Investing in leadership skills around communication and empathy can help with this.

Prevent Burnout: Encourage a right to disconnect

When employees stretch themselves too far due to heavy workloads this puts them at risk of burnout. The current workplace climate is full of recruitment challenges and tight budgets which means resources are stretched thin, including your staff.

As we mentioned in our sick leave and absenteeism blog on reduce minor illnesses and supporting employees experiencing long term conditions.

You can reduce the risk of burnout by:

Encourage your team to switch off after work (no checking emails/pausing slack)

Set workplace policies to discourage excessive overtime

Create more areas for rest – Encourage eating away from desks

Encourage flexible working arrangements

Burnout can become a domino effect. If one of the team go on sick leave due to stress then other teammates may take on more work, this puts them at further risk of burnout.

Consider if its viable to expand your team or outsource payroll, HR or other functions to ease the burden on existing staff members.

💙 HR Support and Workplace Wellbeing

We provide HR support and wellbeing strategies, including new options around building mental strength. We work with you to tackle challenges including reduce sickness at work whilst improving employee engagement and retention. 

Whether you’re struggling with a problem right now or want to be proactive at finding future solutions to stand out as an employer speak to us today. 

Last Updated on 2 months by Hannah Ingram