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The importance of stress awareness

One of the most common questions we are asked at TurnstoneHR is how to manage persistent absenteeism. Of course, an employee can be absent for many reasons – and the first step should always be to establish the cause of the absence.

A common, and unfortunately rising factor, is stress. According to recent research by Insurance Company AXA, stress levels have doubled in four years. And according to statistics issued on National Stress Awareness Day this year (Wednesday 6 November), five million British workers have taken a day of work because of stress – costing employers £460m.

But those who are stressed don’t always call in sick. They may be in work, but not functioning to their full capability. However, presenteeism – when an employee attends work but is less productive than normal – is estimated to cost businesses 105 times more than sickness absence.

So what is stress? The HSE defines stress as the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work (moderate pressure can be a positive – and motivating factor). Stress can hit anyone at any level of the business and is not confined to particular sectors, jobs or industries.

How can managers help to identify stress? Stress has a range of symptoms, but if an individual becomes more difficult, less sociable, and/or has recurring medical ailments such as headaches, stomach disorders, back/neck/shoulder pain or raised blood pressure, they may be suffering from stress. Of course, if the individual has always behaved this way, it may not be because of stress.

An important factor to also consider in the workplace is the identification of stress within groups – often indicated by disputes and disaffection within the group, an increase in staff turnover and complaints and grievances, as well as poor performance and difficulty in attracting new staff.

All employers have a legal responsibility to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees. This includes minimising the risk of stress-related illness or injury to employees. But it’s about more than legal requirements. Effective stress management can lead to high levels of health, well-being and organisational performance – something which I’m sure we all want for ourselves, our employees, and our businesses.

Stress, like so many things in life, will only get worse the longer it is ignored. So how can you help to manage the stress levels within your organisation?

  • Lead by example – show your team that it’s important to strike a good work/life balance.
  • Communicate – employee relations are integral to stress management.
  • Have clear policies and procedures – on how to deal with stress if and when it does arise.

For support with all aspects of stress awareness and management, including the development of policies and procedures, contact TurnstoneHR on 01229 615 280 or email us at for a FREE consultation.

“There is evidence to suggest that good HR practice and people management in SMEs are key factors in strong business performance and can lead to increased productivity.”

- CIPD people Skills Project 2017


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