WHAT IS STRESS?
The Health and Safety Executive have defined stress as: ‘The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them.’
Stress is the reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed upon them which are unmatched by their ability to cope. It is both a physiological and psychological reaction which occurs when people perceive an imbalance between the combined levels of demand placed upon them, both at home and/or at work, and their capacity to meet those demands. Stress can be positive and motivating in the short term, helping to achieve success; prolonged stress however, can lead to ill health.
As a manager your main objective should be to help your staff cope with stress within the workplace. Also the manager should do the following:
- Risk assessment to identify the potential causes and improve or eliminate these where possible.
- Deal with problems as they arise, to promote openness and a ‘blame free’ culture.
- Provide rehabilitation and support of employees suffering from stress.
IMPACT OF STRESS ON AN ORGANISATION
Stress can cause adverse effects on the organisation, including;
- Reduced staff performance and productivity
- Poor decision making
- Increase in mistakes which may lead to increased “customer” complaints
- Poor commitment to work
- Increased absenteeism due to sickness
- Increase in medical bills
- Poor work relationships
Stress in one or two people can adversely impact on others in the unit or team. For example, losing one colleague for an extended period with a stress related illness can have a dramatic impact on the workload and morale of the rest of the team. It is therefore important that managers assess and reduce the causes of stress in the workplace, in order to prevent or reduce the impact of these problems within the office.
WORK PERFORMANCE ALTERATION
- Reduction in output or productivity
- Uncharacteristic mistakes or errors of judgement
- Poor concentration or decision making
- Deterioration in planning and control of work
- Increased absence
CHANGE IN ATTITUDE AND BEHAVIOUR
- Loss of motivation or commitment
- Working longer hours with diminished returns
- Erratic or poor time keeping
- Rapid changes in emotional mood
- Increased use of alcohol and/or cigarettes
ALTERATION IN RELATIONSHIPS AT WORK
- Tension and conflict between colleagues
- Poor relationships with clients
- Increase in employee relations or disciplinary problems
SOME CAUSES OF STRESS
There is rarely a single cause of stress and the causes may be interrelated, particularly the home / work interface. Causes of stress are referred to as stressors. Although not an exhaustive list, below are some suggested examples of stressors. It is important to remember it is the individuals’ reaction / perception to a stressor that counts not the managers / assessors reaction to the stressor.
- Poor lighting,
- Excessive noise, heat, cold or humidity,
- Perceived threat or danger,
- Excessive need to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE),
- Poor work environment / poor housekeeping,
- Poor transport, long journeys
- Marital breakdown,
- Children leaving/returning home,
- Family illness/ dependency,
- Financial problems,
- Poor housing,
- Moving house,
The number of death resulting from stress has increased. Managers should ensure they get professionals to train their staff on handling work related stress.
Emmanuel Akpe tweets @eakpe