Employers advised to take a more preventative approach on Stress Awareness Day

Employers encouraged to take a more preventative approach on Stress Awareness DayToday is national stress awareness day. According to the HSE stress accounted for a massive 40 per cent of all work-related illnesses last year, which resulted in a loss of 10.4 million working days. As well as being a major contributor to long term physical illnesses, including obesity, stress also contributes to poor workplace performance caused by lack of concentration. The financial cost to the UK has been estimated at £60 billion or about £1,000 per man, woman and child. Yet according to the International Stress Management Association (ISMA) most organisations tackle stress at the wrong end. They wait until someone becomes ill, and then start to provide services to improve their health. This is too late.

Stress is largely preventable, as it is mainly caused by events and poor behaviour that triggers a stressful response. Eliminate these events and poor behaviour, and people do not need to experience stress.

National Stress Awareness Day raises awareness about stress, how to prevent it and how to manage it once it occurs. The emphasis is on promoting psychological wellbeing of people at work so that they can perform at their peak – “If you feel well you perform better than if you feel ill”. It’s about how people feel. People who feel great can often concentrate more effectively on what they want to do, and this enhances performance.

The theme for National Stress Awareness Day is ‘Going the Extra Mile’ – which is what happens when organisations are stress free. The energy, enthusiasm, motivation and concentration in a stress free environment, encourages people to have greater interest in others and to contribute more.

Regular contributor Pam Loch offers some advice on how to look out for signs of stress:

“As a starting point, it is important to recognise that stress can affect anybody at any level within an organisation. Research by the Health and Safety Executive shows that stress is not confined to any particular sector or job role, despite misconceptions that some industries and roles are considered to be more ‘at risk’ than others. Some common signs include:-

  • Negative feelings towards their work or disappointment in themselves
  • Loneliness and withdrawal from the team
  • Loss of motivation or concentration
  • Confusion and indecision
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Changes in attendance, either through recurrent sickness absence or starting work later and finishing early
  • Increased complaints and grievances being raised

Training managers effectively in how to recognise the signs and manage staff who may be suffering from stress is key to handling the issue. Some employers have introduced Employee Assistance Programmes which offer an independent and confidential counselling helpline service to their staff. This can be an effective way of saving a business money in the long term by offering staff the support they need at an early stage in the hope of avoiding longer term sickness absence or performance issues arising.”

National Stress Awareness Day is sponsored by The International Stress Management Association?? when ISMA volunteers around the UK will be helping businesses and services raise awareness about the prevention and management of stress at work.

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