The HSE defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’.
Employers have a responsibility to ensure that the tasks and the demands made of employees is realistic for the employee’s skills, knowledge and capabilities.
Organisations should provide adequate training, and support can help employees feel more confident in their abilities to cope with work pressures.
People are affected differently by stress, and what to some would be stressful for others may be just a challenge that they are happy to take on. It is therefore important to recognise the individuality of each employee. However, there are some general things that may make a person more likely to be affected by stress such as:
- Age – new to the workplace or getting ready for retirement
- Pregnancy, or a new baby in the home
- Long term and chronic health issues
- Problems or difficulties at home
- Caring for a sick relative
- Team disharmony at work
- Changes at work such as reorganisations, relocations, staff changes to an established team, new managers, new practices and procedures being introduced.
The HSE identifies six main areas of work design that need to be identified within the work environment, monitored and managed effectively. These are:
Signs of stress
While stress is not an illness, it can lead to illness. Sometimes it can be obvious that staff members are behaving in a different way. They may:
- become withdrawn
- appear irritable
- be more emotional
- be more forgetful
- lose motivation or confidence
- be frequently tired.
Work productivity, standards, attendance and time keeping may be affected. If any of these changes are noticed, it is important to look at the work environment to assess whether there can be anything causing or contributing to the employee’s stress. Any available help should be offered, and a visit to the GP should be recommended.
If there is a problem within a work team, signs of stress may be;
- Frequent Disagreements and arguments
- Higher than usual staff turnover
- Higher than usual absences and for longer
- More than usual complaints and grievances
- Decreased performance
All employers have a legal duty to address work place stress by doing risk assessments and acting on them. An HSE Template for a small company’s risk assessment can be found here. http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/assets/docs/perfect-cakes-risk-assessment.pdf
Our free course on Stress Management can help people understand and control the part of stress that is linked to thinking.