Stress Management or Managing Stress?
- Date: Wednesday 4th November 2015
Part 1: Is There a Problem?
A Labour Force Survey estimates that the total number of cases of work related stress, anxiety and depression in 2013-14 was 487 000, which equates to 39% of all work related illnesses. With 11.3 million days lost to stress over that period, shouldn’t all employers be doing something to control it? The answer is emphatically “Yes, we should!”
Stress is a natural part of life; when maintained at a reasonable level it gets the adrenaline pumping and can improve performance at work, at school and on a sports field. However, consistently high stress levels can be likened to a leaking tap in a bath tub when the overflow cannot cope; eventually the bath will overflow. No one sets out to create an unhealthy workplace; but then again it doesn’t just happen.
If stress is ‘the adverse reaction people have to pressure and other types of demand placed on them’, we need to know what we are reacting against. Only then can the issues be discussed, resolved and ultimately controlled before stress levels become unhealthy.
Successfully addressing stress in a company can bring profound benefits, not only is the workforce happier, but also:
1. Employees have a greater commitment to work
2. Staff performance and productivity improves
3. Staff turnover or intention to leave reduces
4. Staff recruitment and retention increases
5. Customer satisfaction is enhanced
6. Company image and reputation benefits
Where Do We Start?
A documented Stress Policy communicated to staff would be a good first step. If we know it's OK ‘to put our hand up’ and communicate our issues, problems can be tackled before they get ‘out of hand’.
Employers have a duty under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to assess foreseeable risks and ensure adequate workplace controls reduce the risk to as low as is reasonably practicable. If experience and figures are to be believed, then stress is a foreseeable risk in today’s workplace and suitable and sufficient risk assessments must be carried out. We should therefore ask ourselves the following questions:
1. What are our workplace stresses?
2. Who is likely to get stressed and who is more prone to stress?
3. What systems do we currently have in place to identify and deal with stress in the workplace?
4. Are our systems sufficient or could we do more?
5. How do we educate our employees?
6. How do we monitor stress and our management of it?
As a part of this process it may be necessary to collect data on sickness and ill health leave and staff turnover and to carry out employee surveys / questionnaires. By discussing stress with our employees and documenting the risk assessment process we will steadily move towards compliance with legislation and a healthy workplace.
Part 2: Practical Stress Management – Coming soon!