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Dealing with Stress at Work : Devising a Strategy

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Any organization should view devising a strategy to reduce stress as a necessary part of the cost of maintaining its most valuable asset – its workforce. The ideal strategy will depend upon the size and resources of the organization.

Considering elements

The following elements can be included in an organization’s strategy for reducing stress:

  • A programme to increase the level of awareness throughout the organization of the enormous cost of stress within the workplace;

  • A programme to help employees identify the symptoms of stress both in themselves and in their colleagues;

  • A counselling programme to help individuals;

  • A system for monitoring absenteeism (the reasons for implementing such a system, and how long it will take to implement, should be explained to all staff);

  • Regular feedback reports to staff concerning the progress of the new strategy and any improvements that it brings about;

  • A programme of stress-preventive measures to improve the overall wellbeing of employees in the long term, such as the provision of sports facilities, flexi-time, health insurance, and regular medical checks.

Things to do

  1. Identify those employees most at risk from stress.

  2. Offer incentives for low absenteeism, being careful not to increase stress.

  3. Promote stress awareness in in-house publications.

  4. Do not allow anyone to work in-house after 7 p.m.

  5. Introduce a no-smoking policy in your office.

Deciding on levels of change

When you are devising your strategy, you need to choose a level of intervention: primary, secondary, or tertiary. Each level will bring changes to bear on a different aspect of the stress problem. Primary intervention concerns fundamental change and is rare; secondary intervention, known as the “sticking plaster” approach, combats specific causes of stress; and tertiary intervention is concerned with individual treatment and long-term recovery.

Table Considering levels of intervention
LevelExamplesImplications
Primary Involves radical change affecting an entire organization.
  • Relocating from urban areas to “greenfield” sites to improve working environment.

  • Redesigning premises, and rebuilding if necessary, to upgrade and modernize facilities.

  • Companies must pay relocation expenses and set up support systems to help staff adjust.

  • If staff are adversely affected while building work takes place, organizations may be obliged to offer compensation.

Secondary Deals with the specific causes of stress by tackling problems directly.
  • Improving access to sports facilities to promote the health and fitness of employees.

  • Providing an improved diet for staff where in-house catering facilities exist.

  • Companies may need to provide showers and changing rooms for those using sports facilities.

  • In-house canteens should be able to offer a wide choice of meals and cater for those with special dietary requirements.

Tertiary Provides help on an individual basis for those who suffer from stress.
  • Initiating programmes to help staff stop smoking or drinking; offering free medical checks.

  • Providing free, confidential counselling for employees with personal problems.

  • On-going support should be provided for staff who are trying to give up smoking or drinking.

  • Free counselling services should be made available for as long as individual staff members feel that they require them.


TIP

Think about introducing a pilot scheme before a full programme.

TIP

Set up support systems to help stressed staff.

TIP

Increase investment in staff training where necessary.

TIP

Examine the resources of your company before deciding which strategy to use to deal with stress.

TIP

Encourage healthy eating by improving in-house canteen lunch menus.

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