Combating Stress In The Workplace

The ‘Big Work Survey’ undertaken by YouGov on behalf of Westfield Health, questioned 2,011 UK working adults and 520 senior decision makers. According to the results, 66% of the persons surveyed said they felt happy at work, despite 64 per cent of the same employees claiming they felt stressed at work.

The survey results highlight that stress is still a significant problem in the workplace, with more than a quarter of employers saying it is a ‘common pressure’, therefore signifying that workforce health is important to the success of any organisation.

Other results from the research show that nearly half of employees say their employer does not generate a ‘fun and healthy environment’ to work in and Richard Branson would be their preferred boss from a number of public figures, suggesting that people believe that Virgin has successfully established a good working environment for their employees.

The Health and Safety Executive describes stress as the “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them” and it is important for employers to recognise the benefits for their business in terms of tackling stress. Stress is in itself not an illness but can lead to mental and physical ill health. There are clear benefits for dealing with stress at work because if employees feel happier at work they are likely to increase their productivity and also be less likely to take time off due to stress related illnesses such as depression, back pain and heart disease.

The survey also explores the methods by which employees chose to unwind after work. 47 per cent choose to spend time with their family, while 31 per cent opt for exercise. However, there is a worrying trend that more than a third attempted to combat stress by drinking alcohol, with 27 per cent confessing to comfort eating.

Employees can often feel demotivated and perform poorly if they have no input in how and when they do their work and do not feel they are in a supportive working environment. However it is not only managers of the business who should bear the responsibility of reducing stress in the workplace. Work colleagues should also bear certain individual responsibilities as well. Unwanted banter and too many cigarette breaks were habits which people found generally annoying about their work colleagues, which were identified in the survey.

If changes are to be introduced effectively in the workplace then businesses need to manage stress successfully so that employees find change easier to cope with. Employers are under a duty to assess the risk of work related stress and put in measures to help reduce these risks.

There are a number of solutions which employers could consider to reduce the impact of stress in the workplace for example:-

  • Consulting with employees about stress awareness and implement training programmes for employees who are unable to cope with extra pressures at work
  • The introduction of effective company policies which deal with stress at work which include anti-bullying policies.
  • Adequate support and training for employees who are experiencing difficulties at work.
  • Management and leadership development training so that managers can introduce positive behaviours into the workplace which reduce stress in their staff and help managers to easily recognise situations which are likely to cause stress.
  • Implementing systems which reduce unreasonable demands on employees by allowing employees to organise their time effectively.
  • Offering support through occupational health schemes and allowing employees to discuss their problems on a confidential basis without any repercussions.

Stress can be therefore preventable at work by introducing effective company policies, introducing successful management structures and training, managing change effectively and providing the right support for employees who are under pressure.