Stress absenteeism bedevilling financial services

The enormous uncertainties caused by COVID-19 situation might make 2020 the most stressful year in a generation. How can employers in the financial services sector look after their employees?

Stressed female worker
Even before this year's virus pandemic struck, the number of stress-related absences in the UK's financial services had reached their highest level since the financial crisis, according to a new study.Based on an analysis of data from the Health and Safety Executive, the study found the average number of working days lost per worker because of stress increased by 8% between 2013 and last year.

Poor mental health costs financial services an estimated £3,245 per employee in lost revenues 

Law firm Fox & Partners, which conducted the analysis, warned that stress-related absences looked bound to increase this year as a result of the pressures and resource constraints on employees because of the COVID-19 pandemic.The firm's report said that stress-related absences were having a significant impact on the sector, with poor mental health costing financial services firms an estimated £3,245 per employee in lost revenues last year.

Read more about work/life balance in our Global Health and Wellbeing hub. 

What is the cause of stress in the financial services industry?

Fox said the historical rise was partly attributable to increasingly heavy workloads, the emotional stress of high pressure decision-making and working with challenging people. Additionally, an 'always on' culture and changes to working patterns, such as the wider use of smart phones, had meant many employees were increasingly struggling to disconnect from work.The report also said that intensified regulatory scrutiny had contributed to rising stress levels for some individuals.“Rising stress levels amongst City workers suggests the industry is still struggling to tackle its intense working culture,” said Ivor Adair, a partner at Fox & Partners.“Mental health has risen up the agenda in the City. Despite growing awareness of the negative side-effects heavy workloads can have on employees’ mental wellbeing, the problem has got worse."The enormous uncertainties caused by COVID-19 situation might make 2020 the most stressful year in a generation. With so many working remotely in a state of anxiety, staff wellbeing ought to be part of any business survival plan.”

What can businesses do to reduce employee stress and mental health issues?

The law firm suggested that organisations develop a wellbeing action plan that encouraged people to switch off when their working day ended; informed staff about mental health and wellbeing resources and support in place; ensured that poor mental health was 'de-stigmatised' from the top; and considered introducing mental health first aiders.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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