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Preventing Stress at Work

By: Anna Hinds BA (hons) - Updated: 27 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Stress Work Prevent Working Hse

Stress, depression and anxiety are real problems for the British workforce. We lost around 13 million work days to stress-related illness in 2007. It may be common, but work-related stress isn’t compulsory – there are plenty of ways to tackle it. We’ve rounded up some of the HSE’s best advice for preventing stress.

Facts About Work-related Stress

Did you know...

Stress, anxiety and depression account for almost one third of problems reported by employees – and each case will cause an average of 30 sick days.

Your employer has a legal duty to assess the risks of stress in the workplace – and to take steps to prevent it? The employer’s ‘duty of care’ has long been part of British law. Breaching it, and causing psychological damage, to employees, is grounds for a law suit.

What Can Employers Do?

Employers should carry out risk assessments for stress and identify areas that need improvement. The Health and Safety Executive suggests that employers begin by assessing stress levels in their organisation. This can be done through staff surveys, discussions, and the analysis of sick health absence figures. These figures can then be compared with the averages and targets set by the HSE. Their six Standards for the management of stress provide useful objectives that can be looked at in turn.

  • Demand. Employees can cope with the demands of their jobs, and have access to procedures or support if they are struggling.
  • Support. Employees should have adequate support from colleagues, and a source of help if they have problems.
  • Control. Employees have control over the way they work, utilising their own work skills and creating their own work patterns.
  • Relationships. The employer promotes positive working, and addresses any issues of negative relationships or bullying.
  • Role. Employees understand clearly the nature of their roles and what’s required, and they are able to discuss any concerns.
  • Change. If an organisation or department undergoes structural change, employees are involved in the process, particularly if it concerns their own positions; their ideas are sought and they are kept well-informed.

What Can Individuals Do?

Whatever we do at work or home, stress can sometimes feel inevitable. If you work in a highly stressed environment, then your employer has a duty to address the problem. If you’re always eating lunch at your desk, taking work home and feeling under pressure, then talk to your employer about reducing the load.

Of course, while employers may or may not help, there are things that you can do to prevent stress from taking over your life.

Make New Habits
Eating and exercising properly will have an impact on the way you feel. You’re too stressed to take a lunch break – but isn’t the stress cutting into your productivity anyway? Make a point of stopping for lunch, preferably with a friend. Create time for exercise, which can be relaxing – try some stretching or yoga – and it will also have the benefit of correcting tensed muscles and posture.

Make Realistic Objectives
Accepting the fact that you can’t do everything is a good start. When scheduling, spread things out a bit more and give people longer deadlines (you’ll be surprised how far you can push them if you try). One or two days extra wait won’t hurt them – and it might enable you to get their work completed early!

Practise Relaxing
Deep breathing, meditation and visualisation are all powerful mental techniques to reduce stress. You can buy CDs to talk you through the procedures, which will help if your brain is overcrowded. If you’re having trouble visualising your remote desert island, put on a sad film (or a funny film) and cry – or laugh – because these have been shown to help your mental state, too!

Complementary Therapy...
The success of floral and herbal remedies varies from one person to the next. Take a look in your local pharmacy – you’ll find shelves full of stress remedies, including oils to drop on your tongue, tablets, and scents to rub on your temples. Floral remedies such as Bach’s have been made and used for years and years.

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