Dealing with stress in the workplace

According to this article, Stress has jumped to the top of the sickness chart for long term absences

Arguably the one thing we know about stress is that we don’t know much about it.  Or to be more specific, we don’t know the real impact of stress on workers – or anyone else for that matter.  We do know what people claim to be stress, or stress-related issues.   We also know that the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) treats stress very seriously.   We know that employers have a legal duty to assess it and manage it’s adverse health effects on employees, but what are those effects?

In contrast, we do know – for example – that if someone falls from a stepladder and breaks their leg whilst painting the canteen ceiling, there has been a serious workplace injury.  We know its severity, we understand what caused it and we can introduce corrective measures that reduce the chances of recurrence.  But if someone claims to be suffering from stress, is it real or imagined?  What are its causes? Is it work-related or has it got nothing to do with work?  Is the person concerned really suffering or is he or she just throwing a ‘Sickie’ – and possibly a very long one too?

Make no mistake, although invisible, stress can be a very serious, possibly life-threatening condition.  In extreme cases it can contribute to serious illnesses such as heart- disease and cancer.  It can aggravate a pre-existing medical condition.  It can cause suicide.

So how does a business, already operating in a hostile economic environment and challenged by red tape and bureaucracy deal with this unseen, unquantifiable menace?  Well, as a simplified starting point here’s how:

  • Employ a specialist.  Stress Management requires real understanding of the issues and a qualified, competent response.
  • Decide on a clear strategy involving the identification of workplace ‘Stressors’ and how you will strive to control them.
  • Make a commitment to your stakeholders that your strategy will involve balancing negative stress-related issues with a means of harnessing the power of ‘Positive stress’.
  • Implement a positive stress-reduction plan that will not only control stress – as the law requires – but will also act as a catalyst to achieve excellence in terms of your organisation’s business aspirations.  Now if you can get that right, it will deliver an enthusiastic, incentivised workforce, a significant commercial advantage, and a modern, radical business ethos………… and by the way, you’ll also be complying with your legal occupational health duties.


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