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Economic uncertainty increases stress-related absences across property sector

Jobs, businesses and relationships are all widely reported casualties of the economic crisis. But new research has shown employee health has also suffered as a direct consequence of the global downturn.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Simplyhealth Absence Management survey has shown that stress is the most common cause of long-term sickness absence for the first time.

It’s research found that employers planning to make redundancies in the next six months are significantly more likely to report an increase in mental health problems among their staff (51% compared with 32% who are not planning redundancies).

The survey revealed stress for manual workers is the top cause of long-term absence along with acute medical conditions while for non-manual staff, stress has moved ahead of acute medical conditions.

Public sector organisations have witnessed a particular increase in stress-related absence, with workers blaming organisational change and restructuring as the biggest cause of stress at work as well as job cuts, pension benefits and pay freezes.

Meanwhile, job insecurity was found to be a more common cause of work-related stress. This was experienced in several sectors, including of course, the property and construction sector, where jobs have been under pressure for some time.

“Stress is a particular challenge in the public sector where the sheer amount of major change and restructuring would appear to be the root cause. To a large degree, managing stress is about effective leadership and people management, particularly during periods of major change and uncertainty.

“Line managers need to focus on regaining the trust of their employees and openly communicating throughout the change process to avoid unnecessary stress and potential absences. They also need to be able to spot the early signs of people being under excessive pressure or having difficulty coping at work and to provide appropriate support.”

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