Poor management causing stress-related absence

By April 12, 2019Advice, Performance

New research from the CIPD and Simplyhealth has shown a link between poor management and absence levels due to stress.


Stress-related absence has increased for two-fifths of organisations in the past year. Almost two-thirds (62%) of respondents to the survey said that heavy workloads were the top cause of having to taking time off for stress.


The next biggest reason given was management style, increasing from 32% of respondents last year to 43% this year.


Despite stress and poor management being cited more often as a reason for absence, the number of days taken is at its lowest in the report’s 19-year history at 5.9 per employee, per year.


This could be attributed to presenteeism and ‘leavism’ – the practice of taking annual leave to finish off work.


The report’s findings suggest managers require more training to support staff with stress. According to the CIPD, only 50% of managers had undergone this type of training.


In organisations taking steps to tackle either presenteeism or leaveism, only 37% of managers had received any training to spot the warning signs.


How can employers help prevent stress?

Employers have a legal duty of care to look after the health, safety and welfare of their employees. They should conduct risk assessments for work-related stress and take action to prevent staff from experiencing a stress-related illness. This can include:



As outlined in the report, managers should be trained in how to support employees with stress and other mental health issues. The training should ensure managers have the soft skills to carry out difficult conversations, and know where to signpost employees should they need further help.


The training needs to be meaningful, with managers committing to the concept of wellbeing. This is vital to building the trust required for these conversations to take place and avoid the exercise being seen simply as lip service.



Clear channels of communication between employees and managers will reduce stress by encouraging employees to discuss any problems they may be having. Being open to discussions will show that a manager supports their workforce. Two-way communication will also take uncertainly away from change.


Taking breaks

Not being chained to a desk will help employees’ wellbeing. Having somewhere in the workplace that’s quiet allows employees to recharge and feel refreshed from short but relatively frequent breaks. Getting up from the computer will also relieve back pain, eye strain and repetitive injuries. Employees should also be encouraged to use their full holiday allocation.



Allowing flexible working can give employees more control over when and how they work, as well as reducing commute times and giving them a better work/life balance. Employees should be given the opportunity to help design their jobs too, so they’re consulted when coming up with the processes for how to perform their role.


Regular feedback

Using a Performance Improvement Plan helps with communication between employers and employees. They can be kept informed of their performance progress, and benefit from being given regular targets. The targets will also show them where they fit in with the overall aims of the organisation.


How can we help you?

For more information about reducing stress at work and employee wellbeing, please call one of our Deminos advisors on 020 7870 1090 or visit our Employee Assistance Programme webpage.


Alternatively, you can try our accredited Stress Management eLearning course. The first module can be taken as a free trial, so you can see if it’s for you.

Author David Ralph

More posts by David Ralph

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