The 2015 Absence Management survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and corporate healthcare provider Simply Health, found that stress is one of the most common causes of long-term sickness absence for both manual and non-manual employees. Two-fifths of respondents also reported that stress-related absence in their organisation had increased over the past year, and this figure rose to half of all respondents working in the public sector.
Being in employment is generally accepted to be good for a person’s health, wellbeing, morale, confidence and feeling of self-worth. However, the demands placed on a person at work can sometimes exceed what they can cope with and this is generally when work-related stress develops. People who work full-time spend a significant proportion of their lives at work. If their workload is unmanageable, the working environment is not conducive to performing well, or perhaps relationships with co-workers or line managers aren’t as positive as they could be, people can become very disheartened at work, which can lead to a build-up of stress. Similarly, people may be negatively affected by what’s going on in their lives outside work and these issues, combined with work pressures, may cause stress to develop.
Part of the problem with dealing with stress is that it affects people very differently – what is extremely stressful for one person may not seem at all stressful to another. This means that a person’s stress may sometimes be misconstrued as an over-reaction or, within a work context, perhaps as a pretext for avoiding certain work tasks. Sometimes it may be quite clear why a person is feeling stressed (e.g. financial problems, relationship issues, bereavement) but at other times it may not be so obvious to others. This is because some people unintentionally put themselves under pressure due to their own psychological make-up (e.g. a predominantly pessimistic outlook, lack of assertiveness, perfectionism or unrealistic expectations) whilst people who are naturally self-confident and positive may put themselves under less pressure yet perform equally well.
The second part of this blog will look at the symptoms of short-term and long-term stress. In the meantime, more information on stress in the workplace can be found in our guide on tackling employee work related stress. Or for help with specific queries, see the Fit for Work website, or contact the Fit for Work Advice line on 0800 032 6235.