WITH more than half of the UK (56 per cent) estimated to be now owning a smartphone, we are becoming a nation addicted to mobile phones. Many of us just can’t switch off and we don’t mean just the phone – we mean people literally can’t switch off from work in their down time.
Although, smartphones allow people to stay connected at all times and from anywhere in the world, people are risking their health by working on smartphones, tablets and laptops after they have left the office, according to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.
Checking work emails on a smartphone outside normal working hours can be beneficial for catching up with uncompleted work and, of course beneficial to an employer, however it could also lead to unnecessary work-related stress and increased absenteeism.
As National Stress Awareness month gets underway, leading Scottish employment law, HR and health and safety firm, Empire, which deals with hundreds of clients across the UK, is advising businesses to consider how their employees are using their work phones and laptops outside office hours as it could be significantly affecting their work-life balance.
According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), two-fifths of organisations have reported an increase in stress-related absence over the past year, with the top cause being workload and high volumes of work. However, it has been found that less than half employers monitor the cost of absence in their organisation, which on average costs businesses £600 per employee.
Health and safety manager at Empire, Gill Hutchinson, said: “As an employer, you have a duty of care to your employees and this includes looking for ways to minimise work-related stress. With a rise in the amount of employers offering staff smartphones so they can stay connected when they are out at meetings or on training courses, it is important for employers to remind them to disconnect from work in their personal time.”
Stress can often lead to demotivated, inconsistent and unhappy employees and Empire says employers are responsible for providing a suitable workplace environment to ensure employees are comfortable with their role and workload.
The HR firm recommends employers undertake stress-risk assessments and manage activities to reduce the occurrence of stress at work, including face-to-face discussions with employees who may be feeling the pressure. This will be beneficial for employers as it will help to reduce the cost of absence, improve workplace morale and protect the company from employees making a tribunal claim.
What can employers do to reduce workplace stress?
- Policy, procedures and audit- Undertake a stress audit of policies and procedures to ensure you are providing a work environment that protects the well-being of the workforce and able to identify troubled employees and provide them with support.
- Training- Consider offering people stress management skills training at all levels. These courses can help employees to cope better with the stresses and demands of work to optimise their performance during these periods.
- Encourage staff to speak up - Develop a supportive work ethos in the workplace where employees can discuss and seek support if they are experiencing stress.
- Support staff – Promote and support healthy behaviour and exercise in the workplace to build a healthy workforce.
- Unplug the smartphones – Many employees nowadays worry about job security and feel that by answering emails out of office they are they are showing commitment and dedication to their job. Research suggests that eight of ten men are taking mobile devices to bed. Encourage employees to detach themselves from their work phones and laptops out of working hours so they can have happy and healthy work-life balance.
To find out more on how Empire can help your business address any HR and health & safety issue, please contact us on 01224 701383 or visit www.empirehr.com.
Issued by Frasermedia Ltd on behalf of Empire