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Work-related stress is “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them”. Work-related stress is not an illness, but it can lead to increased problems with ill health, if it is prolonged or particularly intense. For
- heart disease
- back pain, gastrointestinal disturbances and various minor
- anxiety and depression
You are not alone if you feel very or extremely stressed. In the country as a whole, as many as one in five people could be feeling the same way. In the workplace, the Management of Health and Safety at work Regulations 1999 require you as an employee to notify
any shortcomings in your employer’s health and safety arrangements. This is particularly important when tackling work-related stress – it requires partnership between you, your manager and your employer: a partnership based on honesty and trust, where you all say what you feel.
What can you do at work?
You can help at work by:
- “Doing your bit” for managing work-related stress by talking to your employer: if they don’t know where there’s a problem, they can’t help. If you don’t feel able to talk directly to your employer/manager, ask a TU or other employee representative to raise the issue on your behalf.
- Supporting your colleagues if they are experiencing work-related stress. Encourage them to talk to their manager, union or staff representative.
- Seeing if your employer’s counselling or employee assistance service (if provided) can help.
- Speaking to your GP if you are worried about your health.
- Being realistic. Ultimately, if you job is making you ill and your employer can’t change the content of the job, think about changing jobs.
- Trying to channel your energy into solving the problem rather than just worrying about it. Think about what would make you happier at work and discuss this with your employer.
Remember: You are entitled to be consulted about workplace and organisational changes that are likely to significantly affect your health and safety – if this isn’t happening, then ask to be involved through your TU or other employee representative.
What can you do out of work?
Out of work, you can also do things to take care of yourself and ensure that you don’t make the problem worse. You can:
- Eat healthily
- Stop smoking – it doesn’t help even if you think it does
- Try to keep within Government recommendations for alcohol consumption – alcohol acts as a depressant and will not help you tackle the problem.
- Watch your caffeine intake.
- Be physically active – it stimulates you and give your more energy.
- Learn relaxation techniques – some may find that helps them cope with pressure in the short term.
- Talk to family or friends about what you are feeling – they may be able to help you and provide the support you need to raise your concerns at work.
If you have been off with a stress-related illness, talk about it with your employer on your return. Say how you feel, explain what led to the even and what you would like to see happen. Take a union representative or a work colleague with you if you do not feel as
though you can do this on your own.
Remember: Stress is not a weakness and you don’t have to suffer.
Your employer has a duty to protect your health and safety at work and a good employer will appreciate any suggestions you have for reducing work-related stress. Work-related stress is a symptom of an organisational problem, not an individual weakness.