International Stress Awareness Week was created in 2018 by ISMA to raise awareness about stress prevention, and businesses are invited to take part in the conversation.
Since 2020, we have already seen the impact that Covid19 pandemic has had on people’s stress and mental health. We are now facing the cost-of-living crisis and the disturbing war in Ukraine. It doesn’t matter whether stress is caused by isolation, worry over an issue, or work problems, lack of money or what is going on outside of our control it can impact hugely on our lives.
The theme for this year’s ISMA international stress awareness week is working together to build resilience and reduce stress.
In the workplace
The challenge in the workplace is that everyone experiences stress in different ways – what stresses one person may not another – meaning that it is not always easily spotted. Skills and experience, age or disability may all affect whether an employee can cope. Spotting the signs of stress as early as possible means that actions can be taken before serious illness occurs.
For an individual in the workplace, changes can be a combination of physical, emotional, and behavioural. We all have bad days, so if negative changes occur and are a concern, it is a sign that something is not right.
The changes that could signal stress are:
- Being short-tempered, if normally mild-mannered
- A dramatic change in weight whether, up or down
- Becoming withdrawn and quieter than normal
- Careless and accident prone
Problems are not always confined to one member; it could involve an entire workforce.
This can show itself as:
- High levels of staff turnover
- Increased sickness levels
- Staff working longer hours than required
- Employees not taking their full holiday entitlement
- Low productivity and efficiency
Employer’s duty to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of employees
Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, places a general duty upon all employers to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare at work of all employees
Raising awareness and making provisions against stress-related illness, at every level of the organisation, can help prevent problems. This should include employee-to-employee care and encouraging the workforce to look out for each other.
According to The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), there are six key areas that, if managed properly, prevent excess stress at work and related illnesses. Following these ideals, contributes to a culture of well-being, increases productivity, and decreases absence.
For each of the six key areas, it is essential that the employee knows that systems are in place to enable management to respond to any individual problems.
Employees are aware, and can cope with, the demands placed on them through their jobs. Employers need to ensure workload pressures are not excessive and whether work patterns, and the working environment, are allowing employees to perform well.
Employees can have a say about the way they do their work, such as flexibility; for example, having some choice about the way work is done or where and when to take a break.
Employees receive adequate encouragement, resources, information, and support from their colleagues and superiors.
Promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour, such as bullying and harassment that cause stress.
Ensure that people understand their role within the organisation and ensure that they do not have conflicting roles.
When undergoing any organisational change, employees understand them and know where they fit.