One in five workers will take time off from work because of stress, and 93 percent of these employees report lying — most of them reluctantly — to bosses about the reasons for staying home, according to a study by the British mental health charity Mind.
In fact, the top five cover-ups used for stress absences include the following: stomach ache (36 percent), cold (13 percent), headache (12 percent), medical appointment (6 percent), and bad back (5 percent).
Few employees, however, really want to hide their stress levels from their employers. In fact, 70 per cent wanted to discuss stress with their bosses, and one-third would like for the boss to initiate discussions and approach them directly when they can see signs of tension.
“Millions of people experience unmanageable stress at work, and the fact that so many people feel forced to lie about it rather than finding a solution should be a major concern for our businesses,” said Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind.
“If employees don’t feel they can be honest about the pressures on them, problems that aren’t addressed can quickly snowball into low morale, low productivity and high sick leave. We’d urge employers to encourage a culture of openness at work so they can solve problems now, rather than storing up problems for the future.”
The study also reveals that most employees (62 percent) feel bosses don’t place enough importance on the staff’s well-being in the workplace. This may help explain why stress drives one in five workers (21 per cent) to become physically ill and even one in 10 employees into counseling.
“Stress can be a taboo word in many workplaces, but pretending the problem isn’t there only makes things worse. Looking after stress levels and promoting a mentally healthy workplace reduces sick leave, helps staff to stay productive and ultimately saves hard-pressed businesses money,” said Farmer.
“In the current climate, it will be increasingly hard for businesses to prosper with an unhappy and stressed workforce, so it’s vital they work with their employees to discuss pressures on staff before they escalate,” he added.
“When pressure is high, managers need to spend more time on leading and managing people, not less. Taking time out with an employee can seem like an extra burden for managers with their own set of targets to meet, but supporting staff properly will reduce absence, improve performance and benefit the company as a whole.”