Stress can be defined as a feeling of pressure and strain. Symptoms may include feeling anxious, irritable, nervous, not wanting to be social and loss of appetite. More serious symptoms can include panic attacks, very variable blood pressure, skin rashes, heart problems and insomnia. However, small amounts of stress are beneficial and even healthy for the body. A small amount of pressure can help us be motivated, adapt and be reactive to the environment. The problem arises when stress incapacitates us to manage our selves in society. Too much stress is the inability to cope with the demands of life. Work related stress can lead to absences from work and a costly high staff turnover. The HSE estimates that work related stress costs about £4 billion each year in revenue losses. Research indicates that work related stress is widespread and can affect any level of employee or self employed, independent of their job position.”Desk rage”, colleagues in tears, slamming computer desks and throwing things are the symptoms of a very stressed and drained employee.
The HSE Management Standards
The Management Standards (MS) have been developed by the HSE as a guidance for employers, employees to work together to have a positive effect on employee well being to reduce stress. However employers have a legal responsibility to manage stress at work for their employees as set out under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999: to assess the risk of stress-related ill health arising from work activities. Also, under the legal responsibilities of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974: to take measures to control that risk. The six areas that can impact an employee, if not managed properly are demands, control, support, relationships, role and change. While stress is managed differently by each individual, there are common causes, symptoms and proactive ways to deal with it.
Demands of the workplace
This relates to hours, tight deadlines, responsibilities and or the work load. To minimise the stress from the demands of work, the organisation should provide the employee with achievable and realistic goals. The employees’ skills must be matched with their job role. Employees’ concerns about their work environment must be addressed.
Control of the workplace
This relates to how much say a person has in their line of work. Employees should be encouraged to use their skills and initiative wherever possible. The organisation should encourage employees to develop their skills. Where possible employees should have control over their pace of work.
Support of the workplace
This relates to how an employee is supported in their work by line management. This also includes sponsorship and resources at the disposal of the employee. If an employee recognises that they are overwhelmed by their workload they must feel that they can reach out for help. Communicating one’s problem to others who are in a position to help can lessen the burden.
Relationships within the workplace
The organisation must promote fairness at work, strive to avoid conflict and prevent or resolve unacceptable behaviour. If not managed, this can cause poor relationships with colleagues and bosses, and can include harassment and discrimination. Building positive relationships within the organisation, outside of the immediate work circle can also be beneficial. During tough times, one may be able to fall back on these relationships for guidance and support.
Role within the workplace
This relates to the organisation ensuring that one understands’ their role in the workplace and that there are is no conflict within each person’s role.
Change within the workplace
This includes changes within the organization or on the duties of the employee. The organisation should provide employees with timely information on why there are organisational changes. Employees can be given given training and support for any changes in their jobs. If not managed this may can cause job insecurity.
Changing one’s lifestyle outside of work will help battle stress over all. A good diet with regular exercise will help combat stress. Avoiding drinking, smoking and unhealthy eating habits will produce a more rounded individual who will then be more able to cope with the stresses added at work.