Firms poor at dealing with staff stress, says HR

Aug 20 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The majority of HR professionals across the UK feel that their own organisation is poor when it comes to dealing with staff stress, more than the combined number feeling it is either excellent, good or average, suggests a new poll.

Following on the heels of the first NHS Trust in the UK being served an improvement notice by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for excessive stress levels, the HR Gateway poll of 274 site visitors shows that HR is also unimpressed by the way UK employers deal with staff stress.

Nearly six out of ten (58 per cent) respondents said their own organisation was poor at dealing with staff stress, while 16 per cent answered average, 15 per cent good and offering sufficient numbers for optimism, 11 per cent defined their organisation as excellent.

Of the 40.2 million days lost to UK business in the 2001-2002 period, a huge 13.4 million were lost to stress, anxiety or depression, according to the HSE, with around 563,000 people being affected by stress.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) said that the figures were hardly surprising given the intensity of work placed on employees. "Even special management techniques cannot help in this situation. The basic cure is more autonomy and better workloads," it said.

Mike Emmott of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said that the results showed that effective measures to deal with stress were still beyond good practice in many organisations:

"Stress is still not a hot issue for many firms and dealing with it is not part of the standard line manager's kit. Translating policies into practice is not easy. The results are disappointing but sadly to be expected.

"However, the fact that 11 per cent said their firm was excellent and 15 per cent good, is grounds for optimism. This is over a quarter and so it shows that there are good employers out there taking stress seriously," he said.

But although forward-thinking companies are increasingly recognising the correlation between a healthy workforce and optimum performance in the workplace, few are taking any active steps to achieve this. All the respondents to the HR Gateway survey agreed that a wellness programme would actively reduce stress and absenteeism, but only five per cent have such a programmes in place for executive members of staff.