Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as `the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them.’ Stress is a major cause of sickness absence in the workplace and costs over £5 billion a year in Great Britain. It effects individuals, their families and colleagues by impacting on their health but it also impacts on employers with costs relating to sickness absence, replacement staff, lost production and increased accidents.
People deal with stress in different ways, factors such as skills and experience, age or disability can affect what an employee can cope with. There are six main areas of work which can effect stress levels, these need to be managed properly, they are: demands, control, support relationships, role, change. Employers need to be aware of the signs of stress, so that they can take the necessary steps to stop, lower and manage stress in the workplace. Some of the signs of stress include decreased performance, higher levels of sickness related absence, complaints, late deadlines and being irritable. Stress is not an illness, but it can cause illnesses.
As an employer, there are ways in which you can help your employees cope with stress. The earlier the problem is recognised and tackled, the less negative impact it will have on the individual and the business. It is important to encourage the employee to talk, whether this is with a colleague, their line manager, their GP or the occupational health team. You should also put in place preventative measures, such as stress risk assessments. People should not be given so much work that they feel unable to cope and end up working hours of overtime to meet deadlines.
Regular appraisals, or even just catch-ups, are a good way of recognising where your team are at and checking in to see how their workload is. These are especially important for those who work remotely, as they may find it easier to hide their stress. People need to be looked after, and their health and wellbeing should be considered.