Fingers pressed against forehead

The growing problem of stress-related absence at work won’t be tackled unless organisations start to think differently about stress, according to a new whitepaper from Right Management Workplace Wellness released today. The whitepaper urges employers to recognise that understanding the process which employees go through in deciding whether to go to work or not is also pivotal to implementing the right wellness solutions in their organisation and to reducing ‘stress’ related absence.

Influencing this ‘decision moment’ should be the main focus for stress management, according to Kevin Friery, Clinical Director at Right Management Workplace Wellness and the author of the whitepaper. He believes that there is a myriad of negative factors that could sway people to decide not to go to work, in particular, when they feel unwell, stressed or unable to cope. Influencing their thinking when they are determining whether being at work will make them feel physically better or worse is particularly key. Friery also stresses that it’s important to remember that the workplace is not the only source of stress for employees; factors that tend to have a huge impact at work and productivity are very often generated entirely outside of work.

Friery explains: “Each time a distressed employee transitions between being at home and being at work there is a point in time when they make a decision about the next time they are due to go to work. Almost always this is an unconscious process, so most people are not even aware that a decision is being made. We know that employees can go through at least 30 questions, so there is a large possibility of negative answers, especially if someone already feels troubled or disengaged. Be it because of their family situation, money or work, they are more likely to arrive to negative answers.”

He continues: “You can relate this decision-making process closely to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; physiological needs are always assessed first. Questions such as ‘How do I feel physically?’ and ‘Might work exacerbate the problem?’ will naturally come before questions considering the impact that people’s absence may cause to their employer. This means that employers need to try to influence employees’ thinking when they are considering their basic physical needs.”

According to the whitepaper, rethinking stress for employers starts with posing two key questions:

  • What are we doing to make work good for employees’ health and wellbeing?
  • What do we do that might make work bad for employees’ wellbeing and health?

Friery concludes: “Employers that are willing to rethink stress need to go back to basics and ensure that everything that can be done to meet basic physiological and safety needs is being done, before they can move on to a higher level of tactical and strategic workplace engagement.

For more information, please download the full Rethinking Stress whitepaper.