The reality of Workplace Stress
How to recognise it and deal with it
We all need some stress in our lives. We wouldn't get things done without it. This article is about what happens in the workplace when too much stress is placed on the employee as a result of work practices. We are not referring to stress caused by factors outside work, which finds expression at work. Someone coping with the death of a loved one may carry that stress into the workplace, as we are not machines and cannot always compartmentalise our feelings and reactions.
So let's look at work related stress and ask, are you increasing or decreasing the stress ?
How do you organise the work of the business? Since the downturn in the economy many businesses have been forced to cut down on overheads. This can manifest itself in the form of under staffing. It can happen that from time to time the need for staff outstrips the supply. When that is infrequent, it is generally not a cause of overbearing stress. Where the under staffing is regular, often used as a way to get the best value out of the wages bill, that it can lead to work related stress. Constantly requiring employees to go above and beyond the call of duty can drain, even the best employee. Take a look at your work procedures. Can you tweak them to help eliminate work related stress.
What is the real cost of work related stress?
Stress in the workplace affects both the employee suffering from its affects and the business.
It is an obvious fact that a person suffering from work related stress is less efficient.
What happens if they leave? Apart from the risk of an employment appeals tribunal claim, there is the additional effort involved in hiring and training a new worker.
It is definitely a better use of your scarce resources to carry out an assessment of your workplace procedures and how they impact on all of your workers. If you don't have the time, outsource it. If you choose to simply ignore it, you may find your time taken up in defending a claim for personal injury arising from workplace stress. The is more time consuming and more expensive. Apart from that you don't want to be responsible for causing injury through stress,to any of your employees.
Claims for personal injury due to work related stress can be very expensive. So too can claims for constructive dismissal.
What can I do as an employer to manage workplace stress?
First you can look at how work is organised. Is it fairly distributed according to skill level? Does too much pressure fall on one person when it comes to getting the project over the line? Do any your employees seem stressed? Try to find out what is causing the stressed reaction. If it is work related, then look at ways to relieve the cause of the stress. The important skill is listening to what your employees are saying. You may discover something which will help the efficiency of your business, as well as remove a potential source of stress.
Are there procedures I can follow to reduce the incidence of stress in the workplace?
Examine your grievance procedures, if you don't have any, contact us and we will prepare procedures designed for your particular circumstances.
We recommend that the nature of the grievance is set out in writing by the employee. This avoids doubt later on and provides an accurate record of any complaints made.
We also advise on a procedure for investigating the complaint in a fair manner and dealing with it in an efficient way.
Having the procedure in place is not enough. You must make it clear to each employee that the grievance procedure is there for their benefit. They must not be discouraged from using it.
The importance of good record keeping cannot be overemphasised. If the matter ends up in court or before Workplace Relations Commission a well maintained record system will prove its worth.
Download Guide on Work Related Stress, here ;
Consider implementing the Work Positive management process in your business. It is a free process. Endorsed by the Health and Safety Authority. It is designed to encourage a safer workplace for all.
Download Getting Started Work Positive, here;
I don't have the time or staff numbers to investigate a complaint. Can I outsource it?
Stress in the workplace and investigating complaints can have serious consequences if not dealt with in a professional, expert manner.
We can provide the independent resources to investigate any grievances complained of, and furnish our recommendations in an unbiased way. This helps protect you from litigation and keeps your workforce content in the knowledge that you care enough about them to call in professionals.
Our qualified experts have over thirty years experience in employment law in Ireland.
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