Concerns about the economy and excessive workloads are not only leading to stress in Australian workplaces, but businesses are also suffering from lost productivity, according to international recruitment firm Robert Half.
Robert Half's Workplace Survey of 404 Australian professionals reveals that stress is becoming an even more pertinent business issue. Two thirds of employees (66%) predict that stress in their company will increase during the course of this year. Of these, 63% believe that concern about the economy is the main driver of this stress, followed by an excessive workload due to understaffing and layoffs (60%).
"Stress is one of the easiest but most costly workplace issues to ignore. This is partly because staff don't like to admit to being stressed and managers find it hard to know when and how to alleviate staff from the worries that burden them," said Andrew Brushfield, director for Robert Half.
"But more importantly," continued Brushfield, "stress is also a difficult cost to measure which often means that employers are likely to ignore it."
Robert Half's survey reveals that some employers are already counting the cost of workplace stress, with 39% of respondents rating a decrease in productivity as the most significant cost to their business due to stress-related issues in the workplace.
"Decreased productivity is a serious and costly symptom of workplace stress. Employers need to put measures in place to manage the bottom-line impacts of this issue and at the same time, ensure the wellbeing of their staff.
"It's true that some employees thrive on deadlines and a degree of stress to get their work done. But this doesn't apply to all employees. Companies must find the balance between positive tension and energy which can enhance productivity and high stress levels which can impede it", said Brushfield.
Respondents believe the consequences of poorly managed stress are lower morale (64%) and lower quality work (43%), both of which can significantly impact a company's bottom-line.
When asked what companies are doing to manage stress, globally just 18% of respondents indicated that their company offered access to counselling sessions to help employees. This is dismal in comparison to the Australian figure of 49%, which indicates that Australian workplaces are at least taking one key step to tackle the issue.
In addition, two in five (42%) Australian companies are facilitating discussions between employees and their line managers to address workload issues, and one in five (20%) have increased team-building exercises.
Not surprisingly, finance and accounting professionals indicated that they prefer open and honest communication above any other tool for the management of stress.