Your guide to stress management

Over 13 million days a year are lost due to work-related stress, according to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), costing the UK around £3.

To prevent this “epidemic”, it has developed the Management Standards for Work-related Stress, a new approach to help employers work with their employees to reduce the risks of stress. While these are not legislation, they are designed to help businesses meet their duty of care; that is, the legal obligation to protect the health and safety of staff.

The HSE defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them.”

“Pressure is part and parcel of all work and helps to keep us motivated. But excessive pressure can lead to stress, which undermines performance, is costly to employers and can make people ill,” says Bill Callaghan, Chair of the HSE. “The Standards highlight the components of good organisation, job design and management that keep stress levels in check and enhance productivity.”

The Standards look at several factors by which stress can be identified and managed. These include workload, work patterns and environment, the level of support employees receive from management and their relationships with colleagues.

There are many indicators that can be used to spot possible stress amongst employees and the HSE recommends various ways of dealing with these.

Some of the major signs are excessive sick leave, conspicuously low productivity and high staff turnover. Talking to employees about these and conducting exit interviews can be useful ways of establishing whether pressure is a factor and if it is, what can be done about it. It is also worthwhile asking questions about how employees are coping with pressure in performance appraisals.

The Management Standards for Work-related Stress can be found at www.hse.gov.uk/stress

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