What is stress to you? For some people a bit of pressure or even stress can be a good thing, it can motivate us to push on. For many people stress, especially chronic stress is a terrible thing. Do you recognise any of these symptoms:

  • Loss of motivation
  • Mood swings
  • Behavioral changes
  • Depression
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Negativity
  • Loneliness
  • Increased emotional reactions
  • Withdrawal
  • Confusion
  • Increased smoking, drinking or substance use/abuse

These are just some of the symptoms of stress. In some circles stress is itself considered to be a symptom of anxiety or depression.

Part of the problem in workplaces is that there is little pressure on employers from the law. Just a few simple measures can be enough to protect an employer from any successful civil claim for the inducement of stress, even though these measures don’t necessarily prevent stress. So why should employers bother to spend time and money on rectifying potentially stressful environments? Read on.

Stress is the single largest cause of work related sickness absence in the UK. About 40% of sickness absence is directly linked to stress, that’s over 11 million lost working days. The average amount of time taken off when someone is suffering from stress is around 24 days per incident.

The problem could be significantly greater than these figures suggest too. Work related stress is recognised as often being the cause of other conditions. It can weaken the immune system leading to coughs, colds and flu; it is linked to cardiovascular problems and it can cause pain in the joints and muscles. When people suffer in these ways it is not often linked directly to stress, even when stress is the cause.

Presenteeism is another problem for employers. This where people come to work but their mind isn’t on the task at hand. This can lead to other types of accidents; it can lead to a loss in production and it can cause a drop in product quality.

The costs continue to mount in expenditure on investigations, on recruitment from increased staff turnover and lost business due to failure to meet orders or due to poor quality output.

So, there’s little legal motivation for employers to properly manage stress at work but there are significant financial consequences if we induce stress on our staff and fail to manage it. And that’s before we consider the moral aspects involved.

We discuss stress, along with 21 other common hazards, as a part of our IOSH Managing Safely course, which we run just about every month. Why not take a look, pick a course that suits you and join us for your health and safety management training?