Work related stress


Work related stress

HSE define work related stress as 'the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work.'

Work related stress develops when people are unable to cope with the demands being placed them. Stress, including work related stress, can be a significant cause of illness and high levels of sickness absence, staff turnover and other issues such as an increase in errors.

There is a difference between pressure and stress. Pressure can be positive and a motivating factor, and is often essential in a job. It can help us achieve our goals and perform better. Stress occurs when this pressure becomes excessive. Stress is a natural reaction to too much pressure.

People respond differently to pressure and stress and how they cope with these. There are many factors that will determine how well people cope, including background and culture, skills and experience, personality, personal circumstances, health status, age and ethnicity, and other demands both in and outside work.

Prolonged stress can lead to anxiety and depression. In such cases, people should be encouraged to visit their GP.

As an employer there are significant benefits in managing work related stress and trying to minimise its occurrence. These benefits include:

Economic benefits

  • Lower risks of litigation
  • Improved return on investment in training and development
  • Improved customer care and relationships with clients and suppliers
  • Reduced costs of sick pay, sickness cover, overtime and recruitment

Benefits for individuals

  • People feel more motivated and committed to their work
  • Higher morale
  • People work harder and perform better
  • People feel that they are part of a team and the decision-making process, so accept change better
  • Relationships with managers and teams are better
  • Line managers can outwardly show their duty of care

Management benefits

  • Reduced staff turnover and intention to leave, so improving retention
  • Better absence management
  • Fewer days lost to sickness and absenteeism
  • Fewer accidents
  • Improved work quality
  • Improved organisational image and reputation
  • Better staff understanding and tolerance of others experiencing problems

Managing work related stress will invariably involve working with managers and staff to identify the main causes and issues and develop solutions together.

HSE have developed some useful guidance and tools on managing work-related stress, please visit their Tackling Work Related Stress pages.

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