According to a report commissioned by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and health firm Simplyhealth, stress has now overtaken cancer in becoming the number one cause of long term employee absence.
The study that examined the situation in over 600 UK based organisations has reported that stress-related absences had increased by 20 percent in the past 12 months. Greater workloads, poor leadership and the constant fear of redundancy as a result of the economic crisis are among the most influential causes of work place stress.
The research reported that for manual workers stress is a bigger cause of absence than physical injury and has also over taken illnesses such as heart attacks, strokes and cancer in office workers.
The study highlighted that stress-related absences were lower in the private sector where an average of 7.1 days were taken off compared to 9.1 days in the public sector. This rate was lower still in the manufacturing industry with an average of 5.7 days absence per year.
It has been reported that these differences may arise due to public sector workers on the whole feeling more secure in the job and not as concerned about redundancies compared to private sector workers. Despite the fact that 20 percent of public sector jobs will be lost in the coming six months rather than 1 in 6 in the private sector.
There are a number of aids for the growing problem of stress related absences from work. Adequate work place communication and compassion from management teams is essential in order to establish when workloads and pressures on employees are too high. Additionally stressed workers may benefit from practices such as mindfulness meditation, holistic massage and acupuncture to target the physiological symptoms of stress.