Stress, depression and anxiety are reported as the most common reasons for staff absence.

What is stress?

Stress, although not a diagnosable medical condition, is a major contributor to a range of physical and mental health problems. The sources of stress, if not addressed, can lead to long term, debilitating health problems and lengthy absences from the workplace.

The Health and Safety Executive defines stress as "the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them".

There is a difference between stress and pressure. We can all experience pressure on a daily basis - in fact - some might say we need it to motivate us and enable us to perform at our best. It's when we experience too much pressure, without the opportunity to recover, that we start to experience stress.

Everyone can feel stressed – it might be when we feel as if everything becomes too much to handle. It could be when things get on top of us and we feel like we're unable to cope with the demands placed on us, both at home and at work.

Stress can affect different people in different ways and is often a result of a combination of factors in both our work and personal lives.

Why is stress a workplace issue?

All employees within an organisation can be vulnerable to stress depending on the pressure they are under at any given time.

Stress can be caused by work as well as by personal issues and problems outside the workplace (e.g. financial or domestic worries). Whatever the cause, stress can leave employees feeling unable to cope with the pressures of work - often resulting in poor performance.

Research has shown that work related stress can have adverse effects for organisations in terms of:
  • employee commitment to work
  • staff performance and productivity
  • staff turnover and intention to leave
  • attendance levels
  • staff recruitment and retention
  • customer satisfaction
  • organisational image and reputation
  • potential litigation.

There is now convincing evidence that prolonged periods of stress, including work related stress, have an adverse effect on physical and mental health and well-being.

Stress can also lead to behaviours that are harmful to health, such as skipping meals, drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, or smoking.

Mental and physical ill health represent personal losses to individuals and costs to organisations, whether through sick pay for those who are absent from work or by poor performance from those who attend work.

By taking action to tackle the causes of stress in your workplace, you can prevent or reduce the impact of these problems for your organisation.

Successful training programmes of workplace stress management have seen a significant reduction in sickness absence and staff turnover – good news for the employer and employee alike. Staff morale improves, people feel valued and the overall result is a healthier and safer working environment.

To find out more about stress management or mental health training for your organisation, please e-mail -

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