Understanding Stress at Work

What Exactly is Stress at Work?

The Health and Safety Executive defines stress at work as:

‘The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’.

Stress also happens when there is a lack of stimulation or there are too few demands. This happens when people feel bored, undervalued or under stimulated.

People cope with stress in different ways and the effect of pressure would be lessened depending on support systems at home, at work, personality and coping mechanisms. One of the biggest issues for business when dealing with stress is trying to discover whether it is a work problem, a domestic issue or a combination of the two.

As stress is automatically included in the Equality Act, so it is important that you bear this in mind when deciding on a return to work plan.

What does it mean for your business?

It is very important to talk to people who you believe are suffering from work-related stress. Seek to understand problems and look for simple solutions that can often help the sufferer. The earlier you pick up a problem and take action the less chance of the problem escalating resulting in possible absence, bad feeling and work relationships breaking down. Ordinarily, management processes can help you track the well-being of your staff, such as regular work planning sessions, appraisals or informal chats in passing.

What does it mean for employees?

An individual’s ability to work under pressure may vary depending on what’s happening in the rest of their lives. Employees who suffer from work-related stress often show unusual behaviour or begin to underperform. The sad thing is that work-related stress is difficult to talk about. Especially if the one you discuss it with is causing it.  But it is important to give sufferers the opportunity.

Keep in touch with those off sick due to work-related stress. You can ask them to visit and telephone regularly so a return to work is not such an ordeal.

The Health and Safety Stress Management Standards cover six key areas of work which are the main sources of stress. There is advice about the stress risk assessment, available at http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards/index.htmcount

Download the Manager’s Guide – Stress at Work from my site now or take a look at my template Stress Policy.

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