A degree of stimulation or pressure in the workplace is beneficial; however, when that pressure is excessive, harmful stress levels can occur and cause ill-health.
The HSE has defined stress as:
“Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them.”
The average length of sick leave due to a stress-related illness is over 30 days compared to 21 days for general work-related illness. More than 10 million working days are lost each year as a result of stress, anxiety and depression.
The HSE has developed management standards to help reduce levels of occupational stress. The Management Standards define the characteristics of an organisation where the risks from work-related stress are being effectively managed. The standards cover six primary sources of stress at work.
- realistic and achievable demands for the agreed hours of work;
- skills and abilities are matched to the job demands;
- jobs are designed to be within the capabilities of employees; and
- employees’ concerns about their work environment are addressed.
- employees have control over their pace of work;
- employees are encouraged to use their skills and initiative;
- the organisation encourages employees to develop new skills and undertake new challenges
- employees have a say over when breaks can be taken; and
- employees are consulted over their work patterns.
- policies and procedures are in place to adequately support employees;
- systems enable and encourage managers to support their staff;
- systems enable and encourage employees to support their colleagues;
- employees know what support is available and how to access it;
- employees know how to access resources to do their job; and
- employees receive regular and constructive feedback.
- the organisation promotes positive behaviours at work to avoid conflict and ensure fairness;
- employees share information relevant to their work;
- policies and procedures are in place to prevent or resolve unacceptable behaviour;
- systems enable and encourage managers to deal with unacceptable behaviour; and
- systems enable and encourage employees to report unacceptable behaviour.
- the organisation ensures that, as far as possible, the different requirements it places upon employees are compatible;
- employees are clearly informed of their role and responsibilities;
- the organisation ensures that, as far as possible, the requirements it places upon employees are clear; and
- employees can raise concerns about any uncertainties or conflicts they have in their role and responsibilities.
- timely information is provided to enable employees to understand the reasons for proposed changes;
- employees are adequately consulted on changes and given opportunities to influence proposals;
- employees are aware of the probable impact of any changes to their jobs and given necessary support and training to adapt;
- employees are aware of timetables for changes; and
- employees have access to relevant support during changes.