Fabian Demicoli

Healthy Workplaces Manage Stress


A Campaign
organised by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) What is Stress and how can it affect the Workplace? Stress
cannot be ignored. It is the second most frequently reported work-related health
problem in Europe and is believed to be the cause of more than half of all lost
working days.

Even
though in some instances stress is caused by something outside the working
environment there are various causes that contribute to work related stress. It
could be the result of bad work practices, competition from other businesses,
restructuring, tough targets or client expectations. Stress can leave a
negative impact on everyone meaning both individually as a person and also for
the business performance itself. Stress generally results when the demands of
the job exceed a worker's capacity to fulfil the task at hand.

 

How does it affect the employees?

Workers
that are affected by stress find it very difficult to concentrate and make
decisions. Stress is the main factor of many of the mistakes that happen and
occur at the workplace due to anxiousness. Stress is also a major contributor
to absences from work. Prolonged stress might also lead to health problems in
the future In some cases, workers may be unwell but still coming to work – this
is known as presenteeism. It occurs when workers come to work but function
below their full capacity.

 

Facts:

  • In UK it is
    estimated that stress costs employers EUR 1220 per worker per year.
  • France in 2007 placed the cost of
    occupational stress in the region of EUR 2 to 3 billion.
  • In Austria, psychosocial disorders
    have been reported as the cause of over 40% of early retirements. The total
    cost of mental health disorders in Europe, both work and non-work related, are
    estimated at EUR 240 billion each year.

 

Statistics:

Work-related
stress is the second most frequently reported work-related health problem in
Europe – after musculoskeletal disorders. Around half of workers consider it to
be common in their workplace. 50-60% of all lost working days can be attributed
to work-related stress. In a recent European poll conducted by EU-OSHA the most
common causes of work-related stress cited were job reorganisation or job
insecurity (72% of respondents), working long hours or excessive workload (66%)
and being bullied or harassed at work (59%). The same poll showed that around 4
in 10 workers think that stress is not handled well in their workplace.
Typically, stress-related absences tend to be longer than those arising from
other causes.

According to
EUROSTAT data, over a period of nine years, 28% of European workers reported
exposure to psychosocial risks that affected their mental well-being. The good
news is that psychosocial risks can be prevented and managed regardless of
business size or type.

 

What's in it for the employer?

Although the
employer has a legal obligation to manage such risks at work the argument goes
beyond mere compliance and abiding by the law. It is in the best interest of
the business to manage stress effectively. It is proven that managing stress
and psychosocial risks contribute greatly to effective improvements of key
business performance such as work quality, goal setting and attainment. It will
also affect the operations of the business when it comes to lowering costs and
reducing staff turnover.

If the
organisations is factoring in stress related drawbacks, workers can operate at
full capacity. Proper and effective management in relation to psychosocial
risks and stress will reap great benefits in the long run. Businesses will find
that recruiting staff is generally easier, as job seekers come to value the
positive environment and culture in such companies. The investment in time and
resources in managing stress will pay for itself in the form of a healthier
workforce and workplace environment and in the long- term sustainability and
improved social responsibility of the business.

 

What should we do?

The campaign
initiated by the EU OHSA emphasises that psychosocial risks can be assessed and
managed in the same systematic way as other occupational safety and health
risks. The standard risk assessment model and a participative approach are the
ideal way of identifying the risks and tackling the issue. First, identify the
hazards and those potentially at risk. Managers and workers need to be aware of
psychosocial risks and the early warning signs of work-related stress. Second,
evaluate and prioritise the risks. Decide which risks are of highest concern
and focus on working on these first. Third, plan preventive action. A plan
needs to be put in place to prevent psychosocial risks from occurring. If risks
are not avoidable, think about how they can be minimised. Fourth, implement the
plan. You should specify the measures to be taken, the resources required, the
people involved and the time frame. Finally, monitor and review on an ongoing
basis. You should be prepared to amend the plan in response to the results of
monitoring. Remember that people can react differently to the same set of
circumstances. Your psychosocial risk assessment should take account of workers'
abilities and needs (e.g. those related to gender, age or experience).

 

Article by Gayle Lynn Callus who is currently
reading a Bachelors Degree in European Studies.

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