British Workers Flee Stress
> 6/4/2007 1:44:57 PM

Thinking of calling in sick tomorrow? The BBC examined an increasingly prevelent excuse: mental illness. The article references a March 2006 survey of thousands of British human resource specialists, which reveals that mental health problems account for a large percentage of work absences. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development report, Absence Management, shows that the problem is especially significant among non-manual workers. In this beleaguered group, 56% of respondents reported stress as a leading cause of absence and 30% named mental illness.

The only thing more pernicious than stress for non-manual worker attendance is minor illness like colds and flues (named by 95% of respondents as a leading cause). Even the ubiquitous common cold, however, does not appear much more damaging than stress when one takes into account the further finding that stress is the number one reason for long term absence. Employees often have to take an entire month off to recover their mental health. Last year, excessive workload remained the most frequent cause of stress, but frustrating management style made a rapid climb from 5th to 2nd place. Clearly, bosses must factor in the pressure that their management puts on employees when trying to decide if a management style is efficient.�

We have previously covered the spread of employee wellness programs, but while diet plans and company gyms can have mental as well as physical benefits, they are not a substitute for focused psychological treatment. Companies must now pay careful attention to mental concerns or they will suffer substantial drops in productivity. This is not just prudent economically; Britain has a legal requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations for companies to assess the risk posed by stress to their workers. While this assures that companies maintain a basic system to address stress, too few companies are taking the initiative to update their approach. Less than 70% of companies are actively trying to optimize their system. Maybe they find that task a little too stressful.

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