Stress affects everyone, and it is a normal part of life, but it can cause problems. Managers often do not want to tackle stress as it may show that they are unable to manage a situation so can leave it and hope that it will not get worse. Managers can feel very isolated and not sure where to turn for help and support – is it a Human Resources issue or a Health and Safety issue?
What is Stress?
‘Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demands placed upon them’ - HSE
A manager may be new to their post following some redundancies or someone has left and not been replaced. This can be extremely stressful for the manager and then on top of their own job they need to manage staff. The staff may also be under stress and demonstrating signs. So often this can lead to unmanageable situations through no fault of the manager but due to extenuating circumstances.
The only way managing stress is effective is when there is complete buy-in from the top management otherwise it will not work in any organisation. This can be one of the reasons why stress is now a BIG PROBLEM within the workplace. A business case should be put forward identifying the cost of the current stress such as absenteeism, presenteeism, staff performance, productivity and potential litigation. The ROI is tackling the problem and improving the ongoing wellbeing of the workforce. This will improve productivity and essentially a happier and more effective workforce leading to improved profits and performance.
Managers can do a lot to help reduce stress and this can be by making sure that they are not causing stress to their staff or is a member of staff maybe bullying or intimating a colleague (this can be very insidious so look for some signs) also work closely as a team and discuss any issues. If a member of staff says that they are over worked or under pressure, take effective action and monitor the situation making sure that it is documented appropriately. Taking no action is not an option.
Currently, research shows that there are about 1 in 3 people under stress at work and this is due to factors such as fear of redundancy, lack of support, no job description, mergers, downsizing and job pressures.
A good starting point can be a stress and/or wellbeing survey to find out where there are any problems or issues and to identify what they are. Focus groups may then be useful to tease out any other underlying issues.
Once this has been carried out, ideally it is best to ‘buy-in’ an expert to carry out the survey, and to provide the organisation with the results and an action plan.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has identified six risk factors for work-related stress. It is useful to consider what your organisation is currently doing to address these issues and if there are any issues or problems identified. This can be seen as a structured method and the six factors can be included in the survey.
The six stress risk factors are:-
1. Demands – this can be too much or too little workload, work patterns and how flexible they are, taking breaks, and the work environment.
2. Control - how much say the person has in the way they do their work and if they have an opportunity to suggest other ways to do their work.
3. Support – this includes encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues. This can be lack of support and this is where working closely at a team is essential.
4. Relationships - promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour quickly and efficiently.
5. Role - whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that the person does not have conflicting roles. Is the job description up-to-date and relevant to the current role? The manager may be clear about what they expect but the post holder may not.
6. Change - how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated throughout the organisation and how effective it is to all levels within the organisation.
Details of the Management Standards can be found at HSE website and can be part of the stress risk assessment process. www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards
More information on our IIRSM (International Institute of Risk and Safety Management) approved courses including Stress Risk Assessment at http://www.ysmsolutions.co.uk