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More than half of employees identify inadequate staffing as top cause of stress

Stress has a much greater impact on workplace disengagement than was previously thought, according to a global study by HR consultancy firm Towers Watson.

The results of its Global Benefits Attitudes Survey found that more than half (57 per cent), of employees who claimed to be suffering from high levels of stress also said they felt disengaged. This compares to just 10 per cent of employees who had low levels of stress.

The research also found that absence levels and presenteeism levels (those in-work, but who are unwell and unproductive), are also heavily influenced by stress.

Data from more than 22 countries revealed highly stressed staff took an average of 4.6 sick days per year, compared to the 2.6 days that low-stressed employees took. Prenteesim rates were 50 per cent higher among those who were highly stressed compared to those were stressed to a low degree. Stressed staff were present, but unproductive for 16 days per year compared to 10 days per year for those with only low levels of stress.

According to the CBI each absent employee cost their employer an average of  &pound975 per day in 2012.

Rebekah Haymes, wellbeing specialist at Towers Watson, said the results of the study prove the “destructive link between high levels of stress and reduced productivity”. She added: “A third of respondents said they often experience excessive pressure in their jobs, and this study shows it can lead to higher instances of disengagement and absenteeism.”

Inadequate staffing has the greatest impact on whether staff will suffer from stress, the study found – with 53 per cent of respondents branding it the top cause. Worryingly, this is at odds with what employers themselves think – with only 15 per cent of senior managers acknowledging this as a cause of stress in their organisations.

Haymes said: “If leaders want to promote a lower stress environment in their workplace, it’s vital they understand the real causes of stress in their organisation. These can be areas that are not immediately visible to managers, such as good communication and feedback structures.”

Employers thought technology was the biggest contributor to stress. More than a third (34 per cent) said that staff who used technology to work outside normal office hours were most likely to feel frazzled. However, only 8 per cent of staff themselves actually agreed with this.

Haymes added: “Companies could take more responsibility for educating staff about the benefits of more sleep, physical activity, good nutrition and work-life balance in order to keep employees healthy, happy and productive.”

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