and Health - Stress In The Workplace
Reducing Stress In The Workplace
Work-related stress is increasingly being recognised as a major cost for business. Recent Government-backed initiatives are encouraging employers to attempt to tackle some of its root-causes.
Around five million workers - some one in five people in the UK - are thought to suffer from from high levels of work-related stress. An estimated 500,000 individuals report experiencing stress at a level they believe made them ill.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, the cost to Britains economy of all this misery is around 6.7 million working days lost per year, costing society around £4 billion. Stress is the second biggest cause of sickness absence days of employees in the UK.
Stress is not a mental illness but more a natural reaction when people face excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them. While it is not an illness, if it is prolonged or intense, it can lead to mental and physical ill-health, such as depression, back pain and heart disease.
"I am amazed at the complacent attitude to work-related stress in some quarters. Too often, I hear phrases such as a little stress doesnt do any harm, Health and Saftey Commission chief executive Bill Callagahan said recently ahead of a European-wide initiative on health and safety.
Ill health due to work-related stress, or conditions ascribed to work-related stress, is the second most common type of work-related ill health reported. Anyone can suffer from stress and while counselling may help individuals it is unlikely to tackle the source of the problem.
A major new awareness initiative on preventing work-related stress has recently been launched by the HSE, aimed at raising awareness among UK managers.
Initially aimed at public sector workers where levels of reported incidence of stress are highest, a series of advertisements advised managers of schools, hospitals, police and emergency services on steps to take in preventing the condition.
The initiative will also help managers pave the way for next years introduction of the first management standards on stress in the workplace which should provide a clear yardstick against which to measure an employers management performance in preventing stress.
Elizabeth Gyngell, head of HSEs health directorate, said: Stress management should become part of corporate culture as a preventative measure. Our aim is to prevent people being affected by work-related stress. There are early warning signs of stress that managers can look for and steps that can be taken to reduce its effects.
Recent research suggests that support at work, particularly from managers for their staff, has a protective effect; front line prevention by the organisation is reckoned to be better than third party cure. As a first step, employers can consult with their staff or trade unions to identify problems and work towards agreed solutions.
A risk assessment for stress involves:
looking for pressures at work that could cause high and long-lasting levels of stress: deciding who might be harmed by these, and deciding whether enough is being done to prevent that harm.
taking reasonable steps to deal with pressures. Relying on employees to manage their own stress by training in relaxation techniques or providing counselling is not enough but it can help. Tackling the sources of stress resulting from how you organise work and the work environment is the key.
Work-related stress was the focus for this years European Week for Safety and Health in October. UK organisations were urged to run stress prevention campaigns that HSE then rewards with certificates and, in some cases, awards.
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