Stress Awareness Week 2021
Nov 1st 2021 9:00am
What is Stress?
HSE defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them’. Everyone reacts to stress differently. A situation that may feel stressful to one may be motivational for another. Feeling a little stressed every now and again is normal. A little bit of stress can help people remain focused, energetic and able to meet new challenges within the workplace. However, work life consisting of long hours, tight deadlines and increasing demands can leave people feeling worried, drained and overwhelmed. This can eventually lead to work-related stress.
Stress is not an illness, it is a state of mind. However, if stress becomes too excessive and prolonged mental and physical illnesses may develop.
What are the Causes of Stress at Work?
Causes of stress within businesses can be identified using the HSE Management Standards for stress at work. The standards define positive characteristics or culture where stress is being managed effectively. If any of these characteristics are missing, stress in the workplace can be caused.
- Individuals may struggle with the demands of their job and their work environment. This could include working shift patterns, excessive overtime, unsociable hours and not receiving the correct number of breaks for their work hours.
- If individuals cannot control the pace and manner that they need to work at, especially if their job involves repetitive and monotonous features that cannot be adjusted.
- If an individual perceives a lack of support, encouragement or resources from the company, managers and colleagues, they may feel a sense of remoteness.
- If relationships with colleagues, customers or suppliers are poor, this can put the individual under pressure; especially if the relationship develops into harassment, discrimination or bullying. Poor work relationships lead to poor communication,causing individuals to feel isolated or unprepared for the work they are doing. When employees are not consulted or involved in processes that impact the work they are doing, this can result in further pressures as they may not understand or accept the outcomes from the process.
- If individuals do not understand their role or have conflicting roles with others, this can increase risk of stress. This becomes prominent when the work being undertaken is new or challenging, and they do not have the appropriate skills or knowledge to complete the work successfully and safely.
- If management or company changes are not conducted or communicated in a clear manner, individuals may feel confused or threatened by the changes. Changes that happen within a business that make individuals feel that their salary or job is at risk can put them under pressure. Where changes are made without employee consultation, this can add to concerns about why the changes are happening, leading to possible stress.
What do Statistics Show About Stress in the Workplace?
On its own stress is very difficult to measure. The HSE calculates rates and estimates for work-related stress, depression or anxiety through the Labour Force Survey. In 2019/2020 it was estimated that 828,000 workers were affected by work related stress, depression or anxiety. This equates to an estimated 17.9 million working days lost.
From the research undertaken the predominant cause of work-related stress was workload, in particular tight deadlines, too much work or too much pressure or responsibility. Other factors included lack of managerial support, organisational chnages, and role uncertainty.
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