Speak up and Speak out on International Stress Awareness Day

Halloween is behind us…just. The dark nights close in.  Even with that extra hour of daylight in the morning getting up and going to work takes a real effort.

Maybe not the best time to talk about stress. Yet as the Stress Management Society points out in a newsletter that popped into mmmultitude’s inbox today chronic stress is a big problem. In particular at work.  Absenteeism costs the UK 15.8 million working days over the last five years.

But the problem gets worse. Research conducted by the Canada Life Group found that 89% of UK employees come into work despite being ill, Indeed  35% of employees are so worried about taking sick leave, they would rather use their annual holiday allowance than suffer from a poor sickness record. In these times of pre-Brexit uncertainly this is understandable.


The experts call this presenteeism.  The secretive nature of this problem makes it difficult to measure. However, the human cost is catastrophic. For employers, the loss of efficiency in employee performance, and the subsequent loss of productivity is bad for business. Figures presented in a recent report carried out at the behest of PM Theresa May (Thriving at Work) suggested presenteeism could cost between £17bn to £26bn a year.

Thriving at Work is an independent review on how employers can better support all individuals currently in employment.

The report did concede that many employers are already creating healthy and inclusive workplaces. But clearly concerted action from employers and governments is needed.

The review was co-authored by Paul Farmer Chief Executive of Mental Health Charity  Mind and Lord Dennis Stevenson, former Chairman of HBOS.

The review says employers should:

  • Create a mental health at work plan
  • Build mental health awareness by making information and support accessible
  • Encourage open conversations
  • Provide good working conditions and ensure employees have a healthy work-life balance
  • Promote effective people management, with line managers holding regular conversations about health and well-being with their staff
  • Routinely monitor employee mental health

All very worthy. Though it is interesting that no one is suggesting throwing extra cash at the problem.  However, one should not be churlish. The encouragement for greater transparency and openness is to be welcomed. It certainly fits in with the overall theme for today: Speak up and Speak out.