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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Stress ‘time-bomb’ affecting productivity

One in four employees have taken time off work in the last year due to stress-related problems according to health and well-being provider BHFS.

Stress ‘time-bomb’ ©Shutterstock
Stress 'time-bomb' ©Shutterstock

Their Breaking the Cycle report warns that stress is having a major impact on workplace productivity, with more than half of employees feeling unable to approach their employer about the problems they are experiencing.

It specifically highlights how a combination of professional and personal issues, such as finances and family life, are leading to mental health and absenteeism problems.

BHSF Employee Benefits’ managing director, Brian Hall, said: “This report paints a devastating portrait of how professional and personal stress-triggers are directly leading to mental health issues and absenteeism on an unprecedented scale.

“This is, unfortunately, being chronically under-estimated by employers and is a potential time-bomb under workplace productivity.

“Employees and their employers are caught in a vicious cycle, which begins with a gradual build-up of stress, both inside and outside work, leading onto job performance issues, absenteeism and ultimately long-term sick leave.”

The report was compiled using online research of 1,000 employees, either full-time or part-time, in August 2016.

Finances (31%), job stresses (26%) and family life (19%) were found to be the greatest contributors to absenteeism in relation to mental health.

In addition 63% said that stress keeps them awake at night, leaving them physically and mentally unable to perform their duties, with 53% saying they would not approach their employer with a mental health concern.

“The continuing reluctance to approach employers with stress or mental health issues is hiding the true scale of the problem,” Hall continued.

“Many of the issues that contribute to stress are outside an employer’s direct control, but those issues are clearly having an impact on productivity and employee performance.”

A lack of a financial safety net was one of the key areas for concern highlighted by the report, with 71% of respondents saying their company offers no support other than statutory sick pay, with 81% having no personal sick pay or income protection.

“They are, in effect, walking a tightrope upon which one slip can spell disaster,” BHSF Occupational Health Limited managing director, Dr Philip McCrea said.

“Employers can play a vital role here, in encouraging the uptake of sick pay insurance.”

“If necessary, this can be provided by a company-sanctioned scheme, which can often be delivered at zero cost to the bottom line.

Another approach that companies could take to help tackle stress related issues in the workplace is the implementation of Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) according to the report.

These are intended to help employees deal with personal problems that might adversely impact their work performance, health and well-being.

“EAPs can be game changers in terms of helping to build a resilient workforce,” McCrea added.