Managing stress in the workplace - Business Works
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Managing stress in the workplace

Recently, National Stress Awareness Day (NSAD) served as a reminder to organisations of the importance of reducing stress in the workplace. The increased use of mobile devices and technology have caused the lines between work and personal life to become blurred, leaving employees under more pressure to be connected 24 / 7 and unable to find a healthy balance. Though it's easy to point the finger at one thing, technology is not solely to blame. Workplace stress can be a result of a number of other factors as well: these could be the daily commute into work, being overworked or part of an understaffed workforce, feeling undervalued from unpaid overtime, or being generally unhappy about the work environment, says Neil Pickering, Director at Kronos.

Whether this stress is affecting a large or small portion of the workforce, it can have a big impact on a company's profitability and the bottom line. Moreover, it can leave employees feeling unhappy and lead to high levels of absenteeism. In order to overcome the impacts of stress, strong dialogue between employer and employee is crucial.

promote a stress-free culture and engage the workforce

It's also important that companies do their best to promote a stress-free culture and engage the workforce. For example, employees work best and most productively when they are engaged in the business and feel they are working in a culture of fairness, transparency and with good two-way communication. They often want to be involved in business decisions and if they feel consulted, they are likely to make an extra effort and believe that they can make a real difference to the long-term business goals. Many managers only find out an employee is unhappy in their role on the day they leave or hand in their notice and by this time, it is often too late to rectify the situation. Therefore, employers must create an open culture which encourages employees to discuss any concerns or worries they may have. Without knowing where the problems lie, an employer is very unlikely to be able to solve them.

Organisations should also work to reduce the impact that absenteeism can have on the business and workforce. Simple steps like recording reasons for employee absence, ensuring there is the correct number of people available for each shift and adequate means to monitor those who work overtime can limit levels of stress in the work place, as well as increasing job satisfaction.

It has been estimated that absenteeism through sickness costs UK businesses £29 billion a year. Factors such as the cost of compensating employees who are absent, the additional expense to fill the gaps with overtime or temporary labour, the drain on managers' time and lost productivity can average 35 per cent of base payroll.

Patterns of behaviour which include: extending the weekends with sick days, arriving late or leaving early and taking long breaks cannot be easily monitored or tracked manually and are often ignored by busy managers. This makes it very difficult to manage absence across the workforce consistently. Without visibility of these trends in absenteeism, businesses will continue to struggle to contain these costs. Further negatives that absenteeism can have on the workforce include low morale, overtime and HR costs. It's important for managers to be able to manage all absence-related policies comprehensively so they can manage the impact these risks can have on the wellbeing of other employees and the bottom line.

Therefore, businesses should be looking towards workforce management solutions to help manage their workforce and provide employees with the flexibility and control over their working hours that they need, reducing stress levels. Having this sort of technology in place can help to reduce the administration time lost obtaining replacements and also keep systems updated in real-time about unplanned absences and shift covers from other employees. By putting in place the right techniques now, organisations can not only keep costs to a minimum, but ensure they treat their front line staff as people, not simply as numbers on a balance sheet. Not only will this enhance employee engagement, but productivity too. As such, workforce management principles, best practice and associated capabilities are core elements of a well-run business, offering a response to fundamental challenges concerning people, processes and productivity.

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