Less presenteeism and more flexibility can help reduce workplace stress

6 Oct

I’ve never been able to tolerate martyrdom in the office: the people who sniff and shuffle to their desks, struggling through the day, spreading germs as they go – and all because they feel guilty about taking time off.

Presenteeism – turning up to work no matter what, in the belief that people will think you’re not committed to your job – is making workplace stress levels worse, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Simplyhealth Absence Management Report 2011.

Presenteeism is just one of the factors cited as exacerbating stress, which is now the number-one cause of long-term sickness absence. Over a quarter of organisations surveyed said they had seen an increase in the number of people coming to work ill in the last 12 months, and two-fifths noted an increase in mental health problems. The report says: “Such presenteeism can negatively affect an organisation’s productivity, not only if illness is transmitted to other colleagues, but also because ill employees are likely to work less effectively than usual, may be more prone to costly mistakes and take longer to recover from their illness. Presenteeism is also a sign of anxiety. Failure by organisations to address employees’ concerns may lead to mental health problems and costly longer- term consequences.”

Lack of job security is a major factor, especially in the public sector, where half of employers report an increase in stress-related absence over the past year. Stress is worse in organisations planning to make redundancies – not surprising, really, especially as half of employers use absence records as part of their criteria when deciding who to make redundant.

Other top causes of stress are workloads, management style, family issues, and organisational change. Home/family responsibilities are in the top five most common causes of absence for two-fifths of organisations.

CIPD recommends that organisations lead from the top in promoting attendance, and supporting line managers in helping to deal with stressed employees. They should also foster an “open and supportive culture” where people feel they can take time off when genuinely ill, and they should make a serious commitment to flexible working practices to allow people to juggle the various aspects of their lives.

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One Response to “Less presenteeism and more flexibility can help reduce workplace stress”

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