Preliminary findings from the CIPD HR practices in Ireland 2019 survey showed that while over half (54%) of respondents identified that stress is on the increase, 44% believed that stress is the top factor leading to absenteeism with over 20% of organisations reporting an increase in absenteeism rate in the last 12 months. When asked about the factors contributing to stress-related absence, volume of work was identified by over half (53%) of respondents. These findings are similar with those highlighted in a recent study by ESRI where high job demands were strongly associated with job stress in Ireland.
Another contributing factor to stress-related absence is management style. This was identified by 41% of respondents. However, while 41% believed that well-being is on senior leaders’ agenda, over one-fourth (28%) signified that ineffective management/leadership is a factor contributing to absenteeism. This is up by 100% from 2018, where only 14% raised similar concern. This suggests that while well-being might be on senior leaders’ agenda, appropriate attention may not be given to key areas.
While the major factors contributing to stress are work-related, it is important to note that non-work factors such as relationships/family also contribute to over one-third (38%) of stress-related absence. This could include issues relating to caring responsibilities, financial wellness and other related burdens carried by individuals in their personal lives. Organisations may offer support by ensuring there are opportunities for flexible working arrangements, counselling, support from line managers and subsidised health care schemes amongst others.
Flexible working practices
Offering flexible working may help reduce stress as the CIPD HR practices in Ireland 2019 research found that close to half (44%) of respondents believe flexible working enables employees to have more control over work which may reduce the pressure of a high volume of work.
However, the CIPD HR practices in Ireland 2018 survey found that while more organisations are embracing flexible working arrangements as a way of motivating employees, in practice organisations were more likely to provide a limited approach to flexible customised schedules (47%) and remote working (54%). This suggests organisations need to take a more holistic approach to flexible working by using its positive benefits to solve other important work-related issues like stress and absenteeism. As research has shown, flexible working may reduce absence rates and allow employees to manage disability and long-term health conditions, as well as supporting their mental health and stress.
Role of line managers
CIPD research has highlighted that the role of line managers is central to managing workplace-related stress. This suggests that to tackle the issue of workplace-related stress, organisations need to ensure that line managers are adequately trained and possess the necessary skills and behaviour. The CIPD research on preventing stress: promoting positive manager behaviour offers a framework on management competencies for preventing and reducing stress at work. Similarly, the CIPD, in conjunction with Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and Affinity Health at Work, has developed a maturity model as a management development tool that would help practitioners determine their maturity level in order to improve employee engagement, health and well-being.