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Environmental Stress Audit

Stress is much in the news at present but it isn’t a new problem. Pressure is part and parcel of all work and helps to keep us motivated. But excessive pressure can lead to stress which undermines performance, is costly to employers and can make people ill.

If organisations can reduce stress they can reduce these costs, and effective management is the best way of doing this. Recent research links effective people management to good performance and productivity.

The need to tackle stress is also recognised in law. Under the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers are obliged to undertake a risk assessment for health hazards at work – including stress – and to take action to control that risk.

However, for many people ‘stress’ still represents something of an unknown quantity. HSE has addressed this problem by developing Management Standards to help employers measure their performance in managing the key causes of stress at work and identify areas for improvement.

The Standards look at the demands made on employees; the level of control employees have over their work; the support employees receive from managers and colleagues; the clarity of an employee’s role within the organisation; the nature of relationships at work; and the way that change is managed.

HSE have identified six main causes of stress or ‘stressors’ in organisations. In this product we describe how it feels to experience the symptoms of each of these stressors and offer three practical solutions for resolving the stressful situations and preventing future work-related stress.

Some of the solutions overlap. For example, although consultation is not listed until the final chapter on ‘change’ it is relevant to many of the earlier sections on job design, flexible working and involving staff. Also, while some solutions apply largely to the organisation, others are more concerned with the individual.

However, common themes do emerge. These themes – such as setting objectives, clear policies, effective communication and working together – can help organisations prevent the underlying causes of stress from emerging.

BENEFITS OF TACKLING STRESS

  • There are clear benefits to preventing work-related stress:
  • Quality of working life: employees feel happier at work and perform better
  • Management of change – introducing a new pay system or new patterns of work are easier when ‘stress’ is managed effectively
  • Employment relations: problems can be resolved at work rather than at an employment tribunal
  • Attendance and sickness: attendance levels go up and sickness absence goes down

THIS INVOLVES:

  • Interviewing every employee and completing a H&S questionnaire
  • Meeting with Management
  • Producing a detailed report based on findings
  • Way Forward action Plan
  • Implementation of action plan
  • Review