Stress in the Workplace

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is supporting National Stress Awareness Day as statistics reveal more than 11 million working days were lost to work related stress last year and more than 400,000 people reported suffering from work related stress.

This startling figure translates as a 4 billion pound cost to society and HSE wants companies to be made aware of the real cost, not only to people but also to business. (HSE 2009) For more information see HSE Workplace Stress

Work is generally beneficial to us and pressure can be useful if it is motivating and helps us achieve, but if the pressure becomes too great a natural result is stress. Excessive and/or prolonged stress may develop into mental and/or physical illness, can then undermine performance and is costly to employers.

Health risks of stress

Long term sickness and time off work is a common result of stress.

Stress can also increase the risk of coronary disease in people vulnerable to stress and could lead to heart attacks.

The above has been confirmed by researchers at the School of Public Health in Berkeley, U.S.A after research was carried out covering 52 countries and a population of 25,000 patients.

Private counselling or workplace counselling is proven to help reduce stress and serious illness.

Identifying and managing stress in business

Identifying and managing stress in the workplace is a very important aspect of management. Ensuring employees feel valued and respected with good channels of communication and support is a major element in the company being successful.

Nearly everyone goes through difficult times in their lives at sometime. These can be of a personal nature, in relationships or family matters. But they can also be work related. Often personal issues will impact on working relationships. Sometimes relationhships at work can be fraught, with colleagues or management. All of these can impact on the quality and quantity of work.

What Causes Stress in the Workplace?

Meeting too tight deadlines, work overload, changes in the workplace, fear of redundancy, lack of appropriate training, relationships between colleagues, staff bullying, can all be factors in work related stress. Often employees will carry on regardless, failing to recognise stress levels in themselves, or colleagues, until it is too late. But there are often signs of stress long before then that go unnoticed. Signs such as absences for sickness becoming more frequent; working relationships breaking down; unexpected mistakes or unfinished tasks. Honest appraisals and awareness of unusual behaviours can often help to identify symptoms of stress before they become a problem.

Tackling Stress in the Workplace

Difficulties in the the working environment often mirror the same areas of concern that clients bring to counselling outside of the workplace. They too are often about relationships with others, feelings of being unable to cope, anxieties about work, fear of redundancy, or change.

Sometimes there are underlying reasons for problems of which the client may be unaware when they first come to counselling. For example, what seems to be a problem on the surface may have its roots elsewhwere in someone's life, or may only be part of it. Recognising there is a problem, being able to ask for help and getting support is the first step towards solving it. Sometimes others may recognise there is a problem first or the person may be unwilling or feel unable to say anything, especially if they fear reprisals. An open and supportive working environment enables people to feel safe to disclose difficulties.

How can counselling help someone at work?

Counselling traditionally means working one-to-one with a client. By offering an employee who is troubled or unexpectedly not performing as well as usual the opportunity for counselling, shows the employer is caring and values their employees. Confidentiality and the time and space to bring to a session anything which is troubling them or affecting their work, means an employee is more likely to be able to overcome their difficulties and return to performing their job well. More than likely with added enthusiasm if they know their employer cares about them!

- Helping clients to identify issues that may be causing stress helps them to find a way forward.

- Helping to highlight and address difficulties employees may be having within the workplace often means the whole workforce benefits.

- Recognising employee strengths and achievements, being supportive when needed, means employees are more likely to go on to achieve greater things for themselves and the company.

What are the benefits of counselling to businesses?

It is now recognised by most organisations that formal regular meetings, for example once a month, with members of the workforce to discuss any difficulties, benefits the company by helping to reduce stress and raise achievement levels. When employees feel confident to highlight such concerns they are less likely to experience levels of stress that may affect their work or lead to more severe problems.

Sometimes though there may be more personal issues an employee has that he/she would prefer to discuss or explore privately and in confidence. Counselling, carried out by a professional, can offer that support. Often companies find that having a counsellor available for confidential appointments, or drop in sessions, on a regular basis, perhaps weekly or monthly depending on the size of business, means that employees feel more at ease in seeking help.

Counselling can help businesses in other ways too. By helping employees feel more confident and less stressed, it helps with:

  • communication
  • leadership
  • assertiveness
  • reduces staff absences
  • reduces staff turnover.

It can be supportive in the process of change management and in redundancy.

If the workforce is happy, work is more productive. The business is more likely to be successful and benefit from continued success.

Managers Can Benefit from Counselling too

Managers can often be the most at risk of stress related issues and with the least time for themselves outside of work to address them.

By offering a confidential counselling service within the workplace, managers can benefit discreetly too.

Well Being of Employees

By offering counselling, companies are not only addressing their responsibilities to meet government guidelines on employee well-being, but they demonstrate integrity, positive action and dedication to the health and well-being of their workforce.