More than 20 million sick days each year are taken by Australian workers suffering from stress-related illnesses, costing the Australian economy $14.8 billion annually, according to research from Medicare 24/7 Health Advice Line (MHAL).
Severe stress in the workplace is hindering 85 per cent of working Australians and 15 per cent of affected employees are taking at least one sick day a month
Absenteeism is unfortunately not the only stress-related preventable cost to the Australian economy, with presenteeism costing more than $25 billion annually.
Presenteeism is the loss of productivity that occurs when an employee affected by stress or illness does not function to their full ability while on the job. On average, presenteeism causes six working days worth of productivity to be lost every year per employee, according to MHAL research.
The study released on October 7 showed that workplace pressure is also disrupting the personal lives of workers, with 68 per cent claiming to have sleepless nights due to work-related stress.
Male workers are more likely to experience stress than their female counterparts. MHAL research also indicates that women are more likely to confide stress related issues to colleagues, partners and friends while men are most likely to talk to their employers.
The MHAL study also highlighted a troubling trend, as 1 in 10 workers indicated they would rather suffer in silence than admit stress-related issues to anyone.
CEO of Mental Health Council of Australia Frank Quinlan says "workplace stress is one of the most common health issues affecting Australia today and as a nation we must raise awareness amongst both employers and employees alike."
Causes of workplace stress
There are many reasons an employee may feel under pressure in the workplace. Some of the more common factors include:
• If the demands of their job are greater than they can comfortably manage
• Workplace conflicts or poor relationships
• Threats to job security
• Risk of harm to their physical health
• A lack of proper resources
• Few opportunities for advancement or promotion
Identifying workplace stress
There are a number of physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms to watch for when trying to identify stress in the workplace.
MHAL psychologist Melissa Lehmann says "work stress can cause a huge range of symptoms – some, such as headaches or sleep problems, are more known than others but stress can also contribute to serious long term conditions such as health disease, depression and anxiety."
Behavioural symptoms that can affect the workplace include aggression, absenteeism, a increased disinterest and a drop in productivity.
Ways to help reduce stress in the workplace
Individuals experience challenges and stress in different ways. While some workplace factors may seem like an achievable challenge to some employees, others may be overwhelmed.
Therefore, the causes of workplace stress are vast and changeable in each situation and a broad strategy is often best to ensure all employees maintain a comfortable working environment.
To encourage a less stressed workplace, employers are encouraged to ensure a safe working environment. Threats to physical health are a leading cause of workplace stress so an important step is ensuring all workers are adequately trained for their position.
By maintaining open communication with workers, employers can support staff through morale-related stress
Businesses should investigate all stress factors in their workplace seriously. By opening channels of communication and allowing employees to seek help, employers can grasp a more indepth knowledge of their workers' environment.
If you're looking to increase your employees' wellness, HICA can help you choose the business health plan that's right for your workplace by offering a health insurance comparison. The team at HICA can make choosing health insurance a stress-free endeavour.