Managing and Controlling Stress at Work

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					                                                                                                     Annex A
                          Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
                                Managing and Controlling Stress at Work
                                          (Guidance Notes)
  1        Introduction

  1.1      These guidance notes are not designed to remove all pressure from work as this is neither
           practical nor desirable (we need a certain amount of pressure as this is what motivates us and
           provides the challenge, a sense of achievement and job satisfaction).

  1.2      They are primarily concerned with identifying, and implementing controls, for work situations
           which can lead to excessive and inappropriate levels of pressure and thus result in the harmful
           physical and psychological effects of stress.

  1.3      The Health and Safety Executive defines stress as “the reaction people have to excessive
           pressures or other types of demand placed upon them. That is, pressures or demands which
           are beyond the scope of the resources available to them. This definition emphasizes that
           stress is the result of a response to a level of pressure and not the pressure itself.

  1.4      Often the feeling of „not coping‟ is seen as a weakness that cannot be acknowledged and
           people therefore „soldier on‟. Stress can also be seen as a „badge of office‟ – that suffering
           from excessive stress is almost a „status‟ symbol and part of the jobs.

  1.5      Individuals accept reasonable pressures that they see as positive and reasonable. These
           pressures can provide the key to a sense of achievement and job satisfaction. It is only when
           there is excessive workplace pressure that stress becomes harmful.

  1.6      Stress is also described as “a variance between workload and capability”. The workload may be
           greater, or indeed less, than the capability of the individual.

  2        Effects of Stress

  2.1      Some degree of pressure is necessary and stimulating as it helps individuals to derive
           satisfaction and a sense of achievement from work. However, everyone has their own
           threshold level above which stress begins to impair judgement, performance and relationships.

  2.2      Continually working beyond individual stress levels can result in physical and emotional and
           behavior changes. The following symptoms are warning signs of potentially harmful levels of

           Sign and Symptoms of Stress

                    Physical effects, such as raised heart rate, increased sweating, headache, dizziness,
                     blurred vision, aching neck and shoulders, skin rashes, nervous tics, clumsiness and a
                     lowering of resistance to infection;

                    Emotional effects, such as irritability, hostility, anxiety, loss of self esteem, lack of self
                     confidence, feelings of helplessness, withdrawal, apathy, lethargy, lack of
                     concentration, feelings of being overwhelmed and ineffective;

                    Behavioral effects, such as, absence from work, poor time keeping, panic, “freezing up”,
                     a tendency to drink more alcohol and smoke more, loss of appetite or overeating,
                     working excessively, impaired speech, erratic judgement, frequent accidents, difficulty
                     in sleeping, reduced work performance, excessive risk taking, withdrawal from social
                     contact, cynical and negative attitudes, displacing anger onto clients, colleagues and
                     the hierarchy, confusion and increasing forgetfulness and the inability to deal calmly
                     with everyday tasks and situations,

  2.3      Stress does not automatically result in ill health. It is only when the pressures are intense and
           continue for some time that the effects of stress can cause harm.

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  2.4      Long term stress has been associated with conditions such as high blood pressure, heart
           disease, anxiety and depression, although such conditions may also arise form other causes.

  2.5      Employers are required to reduce the risk of exposure to stressors so far as is reasonably
           practicable and to acceptable levels.

  3        Causes of Harmful Levels of Stress

  3.1      There is no simple way of predicting what will cause harmful levels of stress. The levels of
           stress that are harmful differ for each individual according to their personality, experience,
           motivation and importantly the support they receive from managers, colleagues, family and

  3.2      The ability to cope with high levels of stress will also be determined by the amount being
           experienced outside of work, resulting from such situations as bereavement, family sickness,
           and marital or other interpersonal problems.

  3.3      Harmful stress is more likely to occur when there are:

           (a)       Pressures which are cumulative and/or prolonged.

           (b)       Demands placed upon the individual over which (s)he has lost control,

           (c)       Lack of competence and/or training

           (d)       Demands which are conflicting – causing confusion,

           (e)       High levels of uncertainty about their work, their objectives or their job and career

           (f)       Inflexible and /or over demanding or too simplistic work schedules,

           (g)       Prolonged conflict between individuals, including possibly sexual or racial harassment,
                     or bullying, or where staff are treated with contempt or indifference,

           (h)       Absences of leadership and/or understanding from managers or supervisors.

           (i)       Health problems

           (j)       Home pressures (e.g. financial worries or marital/relationship difficulties)

           (k)       Environmental conditions such as noise, heat, humidity, vibration and a presence of
                     toxic or dangerous materials, overcrowding, bad ergonomic design

  4        Risk Assessment

  4.1      the Council has a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure, so far as is
           reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of its employees.

  4.2      Employees also owe a duty under current legislation to take reasonable care of themselves and
           others who may be affected by their acts or omissions. Employees must also co-operate to
           assist the employer to comply with the obligations to which they are subject.

  4.3      The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations place an obligation on employers to
           carry out risk assessments. The assessments should seek to identify any significant and
           potentially harmful sources of stress relating to the work and working conditions.

  4.4      The purpose of the assessment is to identify the measures necessary to reduce the likelihood of
           harm to acceptable levels.

  4.6      Although the assessment need only assess the risks arising from work related pressures it
           should consider that non-work pressures may make employees more vulnerable to developing
           stress from pressures at work.

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  4.7      In making their assessments, the assessor need only consider the factors that are likely to
           cause intense or sustained levels of work-related stress, taking into account precautions that
           are already being taken. The following factors should be considered during an assessment:

           (a)       the type of work, volume and complexity and the work environment;

           (b)       indicators such as previously voiced employee concerns

           (c)       sickness and absence records that may be associated with stress;

           (d)       poor timekeeping and productivity;

           (e)       employees concerns

           (f)       the numbers of hours worked;

           (g)       staff moral and motivation

           (h)       the quality of working relationships.

  4.8      unless they have (or could have reasonably found out) evidence to the contrary, the manager
           may assume that the employees are mentally capable of withstanding reasonable pressures at
           work. Evidence might include knowledge of past stress-related illness.

  4.9      It is suggested that managers should conduct a return to work interview following a period of
           illness, even for short-term and frequent absences.

  4.10     Managers should be aware of employees who regularly work excessive hours as this may
           indicate that they are overworked, inadequately trained for the job or being subjected to
           unreasonable demands.

  4.11     An employee who has experienced a traumatic incident and has been affected by it should be
           offered counseling. Following any such incident the employee should not be required to
           continue working under the same conditions unless a risk assessment is carried out that
           indicates that it is safe to do so.

  5.       Procedures for Preventing the Harmful Level of Stress

  5.1      stress at work a serious problem and will seek to deal with it as such. Stress is not a personal
           problem, but one that manager‟s, staff and the whole organisation must be committed to
           addressing. It is important that individuals are not made to feel guilty about their stress problems
           but they are encouraged to seek support they may desperately need.

  5.2      If a Line Manager becomes aware that an individual(s) may be being subjected to potentially
           stressful situations at work they must arrange for an investigation and record the results.

  5.3      The Council currently subscribes to an employee counseling service known as “Contact” the
           service provides a confidential counseling service of up to six one to one sessions per
           employee. Employees can also be referred on to other “specialised” counselors by the Contact

  5.4      In certain cases the Council will consider providing assistance towards the cost of further one to
           one counseling sessions for employees who have been identified as suffering from stress
           related illness, whether or not the illness is considered to be work related or otherwise, by the
           OH Service.

  6        Management Style

  6.1      Managers may unwittingly create the potential for stress by their style of management.
           inconsistency, indifference and bullying can cause stress.

  6.2      During periods of change the levels of uncertainty suffered by individuals may increase. Efforts
           must be made to keep such uncertainty to a minimum. Regular communication should reduce
           unnecessary uncertainty but need to be balanced against the need for confidentiality.

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  6.3      The likelihood of unnecessary harmful stressors can be reduced by:

           (a)       ensuring that managers are confidence and competence to manage;

           (b)       employees are treated in a fair and consistent manner;

           (c)       ensuring that there is good, and effective, two-way communication;

           (d)       encouraging scope for varying working conditions;

           (e)       involving employees in decision relating to job design – increasing their control, interest
                     and sense of ownership;

           (f)       encouraging an open attitude by managers to listen and respond appropriately to
                     employees needs and concerns

           (g)       ensuring that staff have the skills, training and resources needed to do their jobs

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                                     Stress Control Check List for Employees

  (a) identify the problem

  (b) Take some time to discus, with colleagues and management, consider the issues and potential

  (c) Only tackle things you can change, those you cannot, are someone else‟s problem

  (d) Due to the nature of the problem or issue, employees may not feel they are able to raise the matter
      with their immediate line manager. Often the line manager is seen by the employee as part, or even
      all, of the problem. In such circumstances guidance and advice, in the first instance, can be
      obtained from a number of sources such as:

                  Trade Union Representative
                  Departmental Forum Representative
                  Departmental or Corporate Personnel or Health and Safety staff
                  Any other responsible person nominated by the line manager

  (e) Let managers know if you feel you are unable to cope due to potentially harmful level of stress as
      soon as possible.

  (f) Too little work as well as to much can be a cause of harmful stress

  (g) Voice any fears about job security, changes in job structures etc. with managers/supervisors

  (h) Prioritise your workload. Deal with the high priority jobs first; no matter how unattractive. Completing
      them will create a great sense of achievement and boost your morale

  (i) Match your workload and pace to your abilities and training. Do not be afraid to delegate or ask for

  (j) Try not to express or experience anger. If this emotion comes to the fore, take a deep breath, “stand
      back” in your minds eye (in other words count to ten) before reacting

  (k) Try to maintain a sense of humour and keep things in perspective

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