With Mental Health Awareness Week tackling stress this year, FirstCare CEO David Hope advises that recognition and management are key to helping employees with both work and home related issues.
‘Stress: are we coping?’ is the question being posed by The Mental Health Foundation for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and it is an apt one.
Our data suggests that for the UK working population, stress can be the bi-product of not only what’s happening in the workplace but outside too.
In the 14 years since FirstCare was established, we’ve logged more than 15.5 million days’ absence across 190,000 employees. Calls to our nurse-led service have covered a whole raft of conditions, with trends being both reported and projected in our quarterly Index, the Absence Management Barometer.
Some of the most striking patterns for mental health related absence tend to occur around holiday periods, when schools break up for the summer or we are preparing for the Christmas festivities.
For instance, in the months of September to December 2017, we reported 0.3 days lost per employee, or a total of 9.3 million days lost when normalised across the UK working population of 31 million. This dropped to just 3.4 million for the next quarter, demonstrating that the lead up to Christmas, with its additional expenditure and potential travelling to see family, caused more stress than the actual festivities themselves.
The key takeaway from this however, is that employers and line managers need to recognise those seasons’ challenges and manage accordingly. Signs of stress that are evident in the workplace may not necessarily be caused in the workplace.
Organisations should ensure their stress management policies are up-to-date and that staff are reassured and encouraged to raise their concerns. Likewise, line managers need to be appropriately trained to manage such occurrences.
It’s not good enough to sit back and say, “don’t bring your private life into work”, employers should work to help bring employees back to full health, wellbeing and fitness whatever the cause, and not take reports of stress or mental health absence lightly.