Over 11 million working days are lost a year because of stress at work. Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it.
HSE defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’.
Employees feel stress when they can’t cope with pressures and other issues. Employers should match demands to employees’ skills and knowledge. For example, employees can get stressed if they feel they don’t have the skills or time to meet tight deadlines. Providing planning, training and support can reduce pressure and bring stress levels down.
Stress affects people differently – what stresses one person may not affect another. Factors like skills and experience, age or disability may all affect whether an employee can cope.
There are six main areas that can lead to work-related stress if they are not managed properly. These are: demands, control, support, relationships, role and change.
For example, employees may say that they:
• are not able to cope with the demands of their jobs
• are unable to control the way they do their work
• don’t receive enough information and support
• are having trouble with relationships at work, or are being bullied
• don’t fully understand their role and responsibilities
• are not engaged when a business is undergoing change
If employees start acting differently, it can be a sign they are stressed. Managers should look out for the signs of stress in teams and employees. Think about whether the stress could be linked to work pressure.
Acting early can reduce the impact of pressure and make it easier to reduce or remove the causes. If managers are worried that an employee is showing some of these signs, they should encourage them to see their GP. These signs can be symptoms of other conditions. If there is something wrong at work, and this has caused the problem, managers should take action.
Work-related stress and mental health problems often go together and the symptoms can be very similar.
Work-related stress can aggravate an existing mental health problem, making it more difficult to control. If work-related stress reaches a point where it has triggered an existing mental health problem, it becomes hard to separate one from the other.
Common mental health problems and stress can exist independently – people can experience work related stress and physical changes such as high blood pressure, without having anxiety, depression or other mental health problems. They can also have anxiety and depression without experiencing stress. The key differences between them are their cause(s) and the way(s) they are treated.
At Cambridge Safety we aim to help the business sector to keep within the bounds of current health, safety and environmental legislation and to improve the overall standards of safety.
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