Stress can affect different people in different ways. Most people can deal with everyday life challenges; however for some, it can all be too much. Stress, if not managed and understood early on, can lead to physical and mental problems. Stress is different from pressure. Pressure is what motivates and allows people to perform at their best and is considered healthy. Stress occurs when the pressure is too much and there is no opportunity to recover. Stress should not be considered a weakness; effective measures should be in place in all workplaces (as part of the general risk management plan) to deal with stress. Stress is a natural reaction when pressure becomes excessive. Although stress in itself is not an illness, it can cause physiological and physical symptoms or if these manifestations are already in the individual, can make them worse.

Physical symptoms of stress can include indigestion, headaches and palpitations. Some mental symptoms can include an inability to concentrate, having low self esteem and being indecisive. Emotionally, one can feel more irritable or angry than usual, anxious, drained and listless. Behavioral symptoms can include finding it hard to sleep, drinking or smoking more and avoiding family members. These range of symptoms is not exhaustive and stress can manifest itself in different ways; depending on the personality and coping mechanisms of the individual. Personal changes such as bereavement, going through a divorce, moving house and post natal depression can all impact greatly on the individual.

The causes of stress (whether work related or personal) should be identified and ways to consider how to make things better carried out. Disclosing to one’s manager at an early stage may prevent the situation from getting worse. If the source of pressure is the line manager, this should be brought to the attention of the employee’s trade union representative or employee representative. The organization must be proactive in supplying the employee with achievable goals in relation to their hours and tasks. Jobs must be designed to be within the capabilities of the employees. Employees must also feel that they are in control of their work. This includes the organization encouraging employees to better enhance their skills.

Employees must know that they can reach out when they need to. There should be a support network in place, including regular and constructive feedback and support via colleagues and line managers. Bullying or discrimination of any kind at work should not be tolerated. Positive behaviors should be supported to avoid conflict and ensure fairness. There should be systems in place to encourage employees to report unacceptable behavior. Employees must understand their role and responsibilities and how to handle any undue pressure placed on them outside of the role. If an employee has an issue with their role there must be systems in place to help them communicate these concerns to management. Many organizations undergo changes and this can contribute to work stress. Employees must be informed of the reasons for any changes, including if and how it will affect their jobs. A timetable for proposed changes should be well communicated in advance so that employees can make adjustments and deal with any impacts on their lives.

Sources    hse     acas

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