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Tackling Work Related Stress At The Source

We have all seen the posts, videos and articles all over social media commenting on what stress is and how we can best manage it. From building coping strategies to working on levels of personal resilience, the internet is awash with ideas on how to be more stress-free.

Yet from an organisational perspective, it’s not quite so simple. There is no quick fix solution and this complex issue needs (and warrants) a comprehensive solution that works in managing the psychosocial risks that lead to work related stress.

So where do you start?

Different approaches to tackling these risks are broadly classified as primary, secondary and tertiary interventions whereby primary interventions tackle the underlying cause of the stress, secondary interventions focus more on the impact and intensity of the stress symptoms and tertiary interventions aim to treat workers who are already experiencing chronic health conditions. Given that the primary level approach aims to create a working environment free from undue stress it would seem the most logical and effective way to tackle the problem as it eliminates the stress at source instead of merely reacting once the proverbial horse has bolted.

Yet this takes time. It takes commitment. It takes gaining an in-depth understanding of the problematic characteristics of an organisation and the impact these may have on the workforce.

Essentially, an approach of this nature is the purpose of a risk assessment based on the HSE Management Standards, a strategy which is congruent with the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and which explore questions based on change, relationships and role as well as the subjects of demand, control and support which embed vital items from the Karasek demand-control theory. These standards establish areas of the workplace which can be readily explored with employees to ask what areas of their work may be detrimental to their health.

This employee engagement is one of the most important elements of the process, in fact involving the workforce in the development and design of an intervention is just as important as the intervention implementation itself. This not only enhances the success level of the outcome but also increases the probability of a continual revision of the programme through increased managerial and employee ownership of the issues at hand.

Undertaking this risk assessment on a formal basis is a fundamental part of this process. But there are things you can do informally to monitor potential risks, making these measures part of your everyday practices. Get talking to staff. Get managers talking to their staff. Get staff talking to each other. Train managers and staff to pick up on early warning signs of things like stress and anxiety. Make sure your people understand what burnout is and how to prevent it. Encourage staff to approach their managers if their health is being adversely affected by their work and help managers know how to listen.

For me, all of this essentially comes down to being proactive in your approach and thinking strategically about what is happening on the ground.

It is about making an ongoing commitment to formally and informally identifying risks and acting promptly on them, rather than hoping that things will be ok or running an annual wellbeing event in the hope that it will do the job. This has to be part of the way you manage your business, your department and your own behaviour.

What next...

If a business is serious about tackling work related stress, it is essential that they are able to develop a strategy that proactively tackles the root cause at the source. Only from there is it possible to develop an action plan that is fit for purpose.

The effectiveness of any of these interventions or programmes is wholly dependent on both the quality and design of the intervention and how successfully it is implemented. We provide a range of consultancy services to help businesses large and small develop and implement a strategy that works.

If you would like help and support contact us today!

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