Findings from a new survey from Aon Consulting suggest that fewer than one in three employees (30%) would discuss the stresses of their job with their managers, favouring instead their GP, friends, or family. Companies are therefore unlikely to be fully aware of the stress levels of their workforce which, if not managed, could damage business performance and ultimately the company's bottom line.
The poll of over 1,200 working adults asked who they would be more likely to look to for support in dealing with stress at work. Employees were found to be reluctant to consider approaching support services at work, despite these being free to employees and totally confidential.
The majority said they would look for support outside the workplace, whilst nearly a third were more inclined to approach their manager (30%) or colleague (34%). Fewer than one in ten (9%) said they would use company doctors and nurses and only 11% would consider use of a confidential employee helpline.
Employees were asked: If you were stressed at work, who would you trust to go to?
These were the responses:
* Your GP: 53%
* Friend: 51%
* Family: 50%
* Colleague: 34%
* Manager: 30%
* Confidential Employee Hotline: 11%
* Company doctor/nurse: 9%
The findings suggest employees feel a sense of 'stigma' associated with being seen to access support services or, worse still, a fear that to do so would be seen as a sign of weakness.
There is evidently a need for employers and the providers of workplace support services to ensure employees are aware of the benefits of having access to such company doctors, nurses and confidential employee helplines. Stressing the confidential nature of these services is also important.
Alex Bennett, Head of Healthcare Consulting at Aon Consulting said:
"It is amazing that even with mounting pressure and stress, workers are not talking more to the people who can help, be this their manager or the health professionals employed to support them.
"Stress itself is not necessarily the issue, a little bit of stress is a good thing, it can get the adrenaline pumping and some people thrive on tight deadlines recognising they work best under pressure. However, there are some very real side effects from prolonged or severe stress, including high blood pressure, a higher rate of colds and flu, ulcers and headaches. It is clear that if stress is not managed it can lead to increased absence from work and longer term illness that negatively affects the bottom line, something all companies are looking to avoid in the current economic climate.
"Managers need to be mindful of the stresses currently facing their employees and take an active role in managing this health issue. It is clear that stress is not easily recognised at work and hence employers need to do all they can to look for the signs of stress by examining sickness absence data and accessing the clinical resources and professionals at their disposal to ensure that employees are given the necessary support to prevent stress leading to long term absence.
"In addition, companies can focus on implementing more straightforward wellness initiatives, such as promoting sports and sponsoring sports teams, healthy eating and offering complimentary therapies such as massage to staff, all of which are known to help manage and prevent stress."