One in four businesses not equipped to deal with stress

New research has revealed that 25% of businesses don’t offer any kind of counselling to help their employees deal with stress. The results of this latest study, which was commissioned by the PMI Health Group, follows on from the CIPD’s assertion that stress has become the number one cause of long term absence from work.

Mike Blade is the compliance director of the PMI Health Group, and he says that this is clearly a concern for businesses as they try to reduce the amount of staff they have on long term sick leave. He also said that stress is the biggest cause of long term sickness in the UK, so it was vital to take the necessary steps to reduce its effects.

Mr Blade added that when companies employed such services as counselling it was imperative that this was clearly communicated to both line managers and employees, as this made sure the services were accessible when they were needed. He also pointed out that this was the only way to address the problem at source and improve productivity, staff retention, attendance levels and performance.

Stress now accounts for 33 per cent of all long-term absence in non-manual jobs and 21 per cent in manual jobs, while 40 per cent of employers reported a rise in stress-related sick days during 2011.*

There are many tried and tested methods to ensure employees do not feel the strain at work, but here are some of the strangest ways employers around the world have tried to beat stress in the workplace:

• A brewery in Prague offers employees and visitors the chance to soak up their stress by providing a hot beer bath, allowing the beer’s sedating qualities to be absorbed into the blood stream!

• Internet giants Google and Yahoo both offer a massage service by a qualified masseuse whenever their employees are feeling the strain of working for such a high-profile brand.

• The Google office in Zurich has a relaxation room where employees can lie on massage chairs in a darkened room, lit only by an aquarium built into the wall.

• Russians are submerging their anxiety by being buried alive on their lunch break! Therapists insist that rather than causing an asphyxiating feeling, a calming effect is produced with employees left ‘at one with their mind’.

• Animal therapy is a booming business in Tokyo. With the lack of space available for animals, people are turning to hiring out ‘man’s best friend’ by the hour in offices to reduce stress levels. In Russia, one company even has a pet marmoset monkey!

• An American company employs a certified Laughter Yoga teacher to teach employees unconditional laughter with yogic breathing. It increases the amount of oxygen in the body, relieving tension and anxiety.

• A concierge is available at Infogain Corp. to help employees manage their personal life when work is getting too busy and stressful. The system assists in paying bills, travel arrangements and even shopping…

• Proctor and Gamble have installed ‘EnergyPods’ within their offices which allow employees to nap for an optimal time before being gently woken up by vibrations and softly played music – leaving the user reputedly rejuvenated and ready for more work.

• With tables made of hay and decorated as a wheat field, the ‘rustic retreat’ in the TripAdvisor office is a place where employees can go to unwind and escape from their heavy workload. It has proved so successful that another area of the office has now been dressed as a bamboo forest.

• After Milan-based clothing company, Comvert, turned an abandoned cinema into their office, a lot of empty space remained up in the circle area. This was, rather imaginatively, turned into a skatebowl for employees to use whenever they want during the day.

• All the walls in Taiwanese company, IPEVO, are made of dried grass lawns so the office is permeated with the smell of the great outdoors – employers claim that it has made the workplace a lot calmer since the grass was put into place.

For more information, and advice on more conventional ways to help manage stress at work, visit www.hse.gov.uk/stress