Measures to tackle absenteeism and stress at work

A study on how working conditions affect employees in Slovenia has found that half of all employees in Slovenia show signs of burnout. The survey involved both employees and employers and covered topics like stress, absenteeism and burnout. The results show that employers felt higher pay was important in tackling high turnover of staff, while employees said the reconciliation of work and family life was more important to them. The INODEL project – Improving the Working Environment with New Solutions – was led by a team from the University of Ljubljana.

About the study

Work absenteeism statistics in Slovenia suggest that between 38,000 and 40,000 employees are off work every day. The figures show the country loses 10 million working days a year due to temporary absence from work for health reasons – such as illness and injury – or because family members need care.

A survey by the Slovenian Institute for Human Resource Development has shown that more than half of employees in Slovenia show signs of burnout, while figures from the Association of Employers of Slovenia (ZDS) show that 10% say they are already burned out

The Faculty of Administration of University of Ljubljana was the leading partner in the INODEL project – Improving the Working Environment with New Solutions. The project was conducted between March 2010 and September 2012 in cooperation with the following social partners: the Association of Employers of Slovenia (ZDS); the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia (GZS); the Trade Union Association Alternativa (SZS Alternativa); and the Gorenje Region Council of Trade Unions (Svet gorenjskih sindikatov).

The main aim of the INODEL project was to explore and identify the causes of stress, absenteeism, turnover and burnout using a multidisciplinary approach. It looked at the issue of work-life balance. The project also aimed to raise public awareness of the importance of health protection in the workplace. It hoped to come up with recommendations for social partners as well as policy makers.

Methodology

Data were collected using the CAWI (computer assisted web interview) method along with a questionnaire. Electronic invitations were issued to potential contributors.

The research sample consisted of 1,009 company representatives (5.6% of the 18,175 invited companies of all industries) and 774 employees (9.1% of the 8,467 employees invited by social partners). Company representatives were mainly personnel clerks (34.9%), company directors (25.3%) and human resources managers (17.4%). The employers’ survey was conducted early in 2011 and the survey among employees took place at the end of 2011.

Results

The survey among employers showed the most common company measures to prevent absenteeism were annual medical examinations, carried out ‘frequently’ or ‘always’ in almost half of the surveyed companies.

The majority of employers (68.6%) agreed that higher pay was a useful way to help decrease the turnover of staff. Good working conditions and a good organisational culture were also seen as ways of keeping staff.

Employers also gave their opinions on what represented the major sources of stress at work. The respondents to the survey, using a scale from 1 (‘not agree at all’), to 5 (‘strongly agree’), felt a lack of clarity at work (3.06), sanctions (3.05) and conflicts (2.95) were major source of stress in the workplace. ‘Lack of work’ and ‘less interesting work’ were given the lowest scores on the risk factor scale.

The results of the survey among employees, on the other hand, showed that 48.5% of respondents had not been absent from work in the past 12 months. The majority of respondents (75%) reported that they had continued to work despite having an illness or injury for which they ought to have taken sick leave.

One third of employees (29%) also reported that they stood to lose certain bonuses or the possibility of additional income if they were absent from work.

Employees found the reconciliation of work and family life was the most important factor when dealing with absenteeism. Among the most important preventive measures rate by employees – on a scale from 1 to 5 – were steps to increase confidence in leadership (3.89), company subsidies to organise various meetings (3.86) and public acknowledgement.

Table 1: Prevention measures
EMPLOYERS EMPLOYEES

52% of companies never organise a hot meal for their employees

65% of employees report never receiving an organised hot meal

50% of companies do not provide their employees with free or subsidised sports activities outside working time – 29% provide activities occasionally

66% of employees reported their employer did not provide free or subsidised sports activities outside working hours

80% of companies never organised seminars on health for their employees

67% of employees had never had seminars (courses) on improving health

85% of companies do not organise systematic talks to employees when they returned from sick leave

66% of employees say that there is no systematic conversation when they return from sick leave

Source: Stare, 2012

Main findings

Research results from the INODEL project show Slovenian companies are aware of the importance of creating a healthy work environment, but they also consider the greater impact of the relevant measures to be related to the relatively high costs.

While the majority of employers say that higher pay is one of the most important measures to combat high employee turnover, employees say reconciliation of work and family life is the most important issue.

However, employers consider they generally offer well-organised reconciliation of work and family life, while disparities between work and family life may result in stress, overload and burnout.

Commentary

Social partners participating in the project believe that Slovenian companies use a variety of preventive measures to improve the health of employees and balance work with family life to reduce turnover and stress in the workplace. But most programmes are designed for individuals in the form of information, training and workshops, and focus on techniques for coping with stress, such as interpersonal and social skills, time management and reducing anxiety.

Although burnout and stress among employees is increasingly an issue, the amount of guidance on preventive and curative best practice still remains relatively low. Researchers such as the author of the INODEL report have identified unexploited potential in the introduction of promoters of healthy lifestyle and healthy approaches to work in the companies.

References

Association of Employers of Slovenia (ZDS) (2012), ‘INODEL – Improving the Working Environment with New Solutions’, available at http://www.zds.si/en/projects/inodel/default.html

Stare, J. (2012), Project INODEL – ‘Projekt INODEL: nekateri razlogi in rezultati’ [Some reasons and results], conference presentation, All Aspects of the Working Environment from the Project INODEL, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia (GZS), 22 February 2014, Ljubljana.

Barbara Lužar, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences

 

 

 

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