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Workplace stress – The silent epidemic

July 22, 2009

Research has shown that employers are unprepared strategically, unprotected legally, and underinsured with regard to tackling the growing phenomenon of stress in the workplace. Many simply do not understand its impact: they are either hoping it will just go away or paralysed with uncertainty as to how to handle it. 

One ill advised way of releiving stress!
One ill advised way of releiving stress!

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has estimated that half a million people in the UK experience work-related stress at a level they believe is making them ill, and up to five million feel ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ stressed by their work. The HSE estimates that stress costs U.K. organisations around £3.7 billion annually.

So what is stress? According to the HSE, stress is ‘The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them.’

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.

Why tackle work-related stress?
– To reduce sickness absence

• Work-related stress accounts for over a third of all new incidences of ill health.
• Each case of work-related stress-depression or anxiety-related ill health leads to an average of 30.2 working days lost.
• A total of 13.8 million working days were lost to work-related stress, depression and anxiety in 2006/07.

– To benefit your business
As well as reducing sickness absence costs to an organisation, tackling stress can have a positive effect on:
• Staff performance and productivity
• Staff recruitment and retention
• Customer satisfaction
•  Organisational image and reputation

– To comply with the law
• Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to assess the risk of stress-related ill health arising from work activities
• Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to take measures to control that risk.

How Team Building can help
Team building can play a major role in combating stress in the work environment. Many organisations still view team building as something of a luxury, as a reward for staff when business is good.  This is fine; however few businesses realise that team building can have an extremely positive effect when business is not so straight forward and is particularly beneficial in times of change. A well run team building experience can be used very effectively to:

• Reduce stress and conflicts in the workplace
• Break down barriers and improve communication skills within a group
• Improve problem solving
• Improve managerial and leadership skills
• Identify strengths and weaknesses within a team

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