Work related stress can develop when a person is unable to cope with the demands placed on them. This kind of stress can occur in any industry and at any level of work role, i.e from admin staff to junior staff to management. However, some sectors report higher levels of stress than others. Occupations that have higher stress levels include human health, teaching and social work. The causes of stress mostly include work pressure, lack of managerial support and work related violence/bullying.
If the causes of work stress are not managed it can lead to sickness absence, errors at work and high staff turnover which can all be very costly for the business. Not tackling stress in the work place can result in poor staff performance and commitment, attendance levels, staff retention, organizational image and customer satisfaction. Stress can also cause ill health such as heart disease, back pain, headaches, anxiety and depression. According to the HSE, the total number of stress related sickness in 2011/12 was 428 000 (40%); this was out of a total of 1 073 000 for all work-related illnesses. In this same year there were gender differences; there was 86 000 male and 135 000 female cases of work related stress. Larger work places had also reported statistically higher levels of cases of work related stress.
The law requires employers to tackle work related stress under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Employers need to carry out sufficient risk assessments for stress and have controls in place to try to mitigate against it. Actions should be taken on risk assessment findings.
The Management Standards have been developed by the HSE to help reduce levels of stress at work. These standards cover six key areas which are (1) Demands (2) Control (3) Support (4) Relationships (5) Role and (6) Change. These areas are the main triggers of stress at work. The Management Standards include a risk management process, which incorporates features to reduce the causes of stress. The standards offer a good practice approach to stress related risk assessment. There is help for employers so they can focus on the causes and aid in their prevention. The state to be achieved with the Demands is one where the organization provides the employees with adequate and achievable workloads. Employees’ jobs should be matched to their skills and abilities. The Control part of the standards should result in employees having a say in their pace of work, that they are consulted in their work patterns and that they can communicate any grievances they have. Support includes encouragement and sponsorship from line management and colleagues. The Role aspect of the standards is there to ensure the employee clearly understands what is expected of them and that they do not have conflicting ideas. The Relationships part of the standards is there to ensure there is positive working among employees. If Change is to occur, then employees must be communicated to about this in a timely way and any affects it will have on their workload.