With 12.5 million work days lost each year as a result of stress, depression and anxiety, the global membership organisation Business Disability Forum is using Mental Health Awareness Week (14 to 20 May) to raise awareness of the impact of work-related stress and to offer advice to organisations on taking a strategic approach. Contributor Diane Lightfoot, Chief Executive Officer – Business Disability Forum.
Business Disability Forum is releasing a 10-point strategy for reducing workplace stress to mark the week, in view of the increasing visibility of the condition both on the news and within businesses. CIPD recently found that the phenomenon of ‘presenteeism’ – employees coming to work when unwell – could be tackled if high levels of workplace stress were addressed.
Diane Lightfoot, Chief Executive Officer at Business Disability Forum, called on businesses to be open and proactive in workplace stress, pointing to the benefits in employee morale, working culture, and productivity. Diane said: “The common misuse of the word ‘stress’ in everyday language has caused it to become somewhat devalued as a serious health issue, yet work-related stress is currently the biggest occupational health problem facing the UK.
“The non-visible nature of disabilities such as stress, means that it can often be harder for employers to recognise the needs of employees experiencing the condition and to put in place workplace adjustments.
“But there are huge opportunities here for employers. It isn’t overstating the case to say that tackling workplace stress, for example, could have a transformative effect on a business’s working culture and morale.
“As is proven by our research and the experiences of countless business leaders, employers who take care of their people in this way find that there are huge rewards for doing so. As organisations they enjoy higher productivity and lower costs associated with turnover and workplace absences.
“We hope that our 10-point strategy will encourage employers to take the first step in this direction, by reviewing policies and organisational culture and starting frank conversations about how to address this central issue.”
Ten-point strategy to reducing work-place stress
Ensure workloads are realistic and appropriate to the skills and capabilities of the employee and that employees are not working excessive hours – or during weekends and holidays.
Ensure everyone has clear objectives
Allow employees as much control as possible in the way that they plan their time and perform their duties. Where possible allow flexible working and remote working patterns. Ensure every employee receives regular feedback through good day-to-day management and fair performance appraisals.
Create a supportive environment in which employees feel able to talk about issues such as stress. Raise awareness of the effects of stress and promote a healthy work/life balance, for example encouraging staff not to work through lunch. Be ready to make workplace adjustments to help an employee who is experiencing stress to continue contributing to the workplace.
Introduce initiatives to assist employees to manage their time and control their pace of work. Ensure your organisation promotes a positive and inclusive culture and has clearly signposted policies on workplace bullying and harassment and that complaints are investigated promptly and effectively.
Consult your employees and make sure your organisation’s communications are honest and open. Business Disability Forum is a leading not-for-profit membership organisation which has over 20 years’ experience of providing advice and guidance on disability and employment. Its Members and Partners employ almost 20 percent of the UK workforce.
Business Disability Forum regularly carries out research and produces briefings on a range of disability employment issues. Its ‘10-point strategy for reducing work-place stress’ has been adapted from its recent research looking at employment adjustments for people experiencing stress, anxiety and depression.
The membership organisation is also marking Mental Health Awareness week by providing an in-depth Mental Health Toolkit to its Member and Partner organisations, in order to further help managers take the best care of their own and their employees’ mental health.