The public profile of work-related stress seems to be increasing. Hardly a week passes without an article about work stress in a UK national newspaper. What is it about work in the twenty-first century that is so stressful? Perhaps this “epidemic” of stress is a result of technology, but it may also be due to economic uncertainty or changes in working practices which favour short-term contracts, outsourcing and lean thinking.
Regardless of the cause, stress remains one of the most important contributors to absence from work. Estimates from the latest HSE – Labour Force Survey indicate that self-reported work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for an estimated 11.4 million lost working days in Britain in 2008/09.
What are your responsibilities as an Employer to manage stress in the workplace?
There is no single, specific law covering the Employers responsibility for workplace stress. Under Health & Safety legislation Employers clearly have the obligation to assess the risk of stress-related ill health arising from work activities, and to take measures to control that risk.
There is no doubt that controlling workplace stress has positive benefits for the organisation, ranging from reduced absence to improved productivity. There is a large body of evidence for savings from stress reduction initiatives in America, where there is more data on these types of programmes. For example: an American Journal of Health study of 6 large companies noted that workplace stress reduction techniques could save these businesses as much as eight per cent of their health care expenditures – about $24 billion annually.
Here in the UK, London Underground embarked on a stress reduction programme in 2002/3. They reported that the Stress Reduction Programme resulted in absence reduction, savings of £455,000 – a return on investment of 8:1.
Not all stress is bad of course. Some stress is good for us. Good stress or pressure, helps us to excel at tasks, meet tight deadlines or build strength as when we exercise. The trigger point that tips good pressure into stress is different for all of us. Helping employees to understand their trigger points can prevent stress from becoming a problem that impacts the workplace.
If you’d like to discuss how we can help your employees become more resilient, visit the “For Business” pages of our website or call for a confidential discuss.