All in a day’s work?

Stress levels at work are now the major cause of long-term absence, says a new CIPD report – but coaching could well be the answer to effective attendance management

News that stress now tops the league of causes for long-term absence in the UK has thrust coaching into the limelight as an effective intervention. Stress has overtaken musculoskeletal problems as the top cause of sick leave, while 39 per cent of employers say absence due to mental health problems has risen in the past year, according to the Absence Management survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Simplyhealth.

Top causes of stress at work include workloads, management style and considerable organisational change and restructuring, says the report. Dealing with sick days costs employers an average of £673 per absent employee a year, up £73 from 2010.

The survey identifies 23 absence management approaches, including return-to-work interviews, attendance bonuses, stress counselling, employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and changes to working patterns.

Although coaching is not cited as an option for managing absence, CIPD adviser Jill Miller, believed some respondents were thinking about coaching when answering about support provided for line managers to manage absence/attendance. She pledged to consider including coaching in next year’s survey.

She said: “Line managers play a key role in effective absence/attendance management, and coaching is a good way of developing capability to do so.”

She said that line managers need to focus on regaining the trust of their employees and on openly communicating.

Kent County Council has recognised the critical role of line managers in its successful “attendance policy”, training them in coaching skills, managing difficult conversations well, stress management and living well, positive management of mental health and managing change successfully. Return-to-work coaching is also on offer to staff.

There is a particular increase in stress-related absence among public sector organisations, with 50 per cent of respondents reporting a rise, according to the report.

Coaching at Work, Volume 6, Issue 6

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