Stress Guidance for Managers

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1 Stress Guidance for Managers The University has adopted a wellbeing approach to the management of stress and has revised its Management of Stress policy. The wellbeing approach is underpinned by a recognition that: University staff are people first and employees second; people experience a variety of pressures, from different sources, at different times in their lives. Not all stress at work is caused by work-related factors - a person s performance at work can be affected by stress arising from pressures outside work (be they domestic, financial or emotional). Whilst it is important to identify and minimise any work-related sources of stress, it must be recognised that other sources may remain; improving the experience of working at the University has benefits for everyone. Management responsibilities are set out in the University s Management of Stress policy which should be read in conjunction with this guidance. What is Stress? The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) define stress as the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them. Individuals generally accept reasonable pressures which can be positive and motivational and which provide a key to a sense of achievement and job satisfaction. However, when individuals experience excessive pressure without the opportunity to recover they feel unable to cope and as a result they may suffer from stress. Given an excess of pressure, we can all suffer from stress and this should not be seen as a weakness. Instead, an individual should be helped to deal with these pressures. Reactions to stress will vary from one individual to another and will also vary at different times in their lives. Stress may arise as a result of pressures at work or outside work or a combination of both. It is therefore important that staff and their managers are familiar with the symptoms of stress and are aware of the available strategies for dealing with it. What are the symptoms of stress? There are various effects associated with stress. Each person is individual and their reactions are likely to vary both physically and mentally. Some of the common symptoms which are often indicators that a person is suffering from stress include:- Physical effects disturbed sleep pattern, fatigue, indigestion/heartburn, headache, dizziness, nausea, raised heart rate, aching neck and shoulders or skin rashes. Emotional symptoms - anxiety, irritability, fear or panic attacks, aggression, loss of confidence or depression. Behavioural effects increased accidents or near misses, increased use of alcohol and cigarettes, poor concentration, inability to deal calmly with everyday tasks and situations, loss of interest in work, difficulty in decision making, unauthorised absenteeism, and increased levels of sickness or poor timekeeping. 1

2 If these effects are short-lived they cause no lasting harm and when the pressures recede, things return to normal. Symptoms of stress are not the same as ill health, however if the stress continues these symptoms can develop into a serious and long-term illness. In some cases, particularly where pressures are intense, the effects of stress can be more sustained and far more damaging, leading to longer-term psychological problems and physical ill health. Stress has been associated with a number of serious ill-health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, ulcers, thyroid disorders, and mental illness such as clinical depression and neurosis. What Can Cause Harmful Levels of Work-related Stress? poor communication and inappropriate management style lack of training, resources and opportunities for personal development high workload, unsociable hours, inflexible working arrangements uncomfortable or unsafe working environment the nature of the job, such as working with the public or working alone lack of control over work demands or lack of support from colleagues and/or management lack of feedback on performance and feeling undervalued organisational change and lack of job security interpersonal conflict Why deal with stress? The Ethical Case The University places a high value on the well-being and dignity of its staff and aims to provide a healthy and safe working environment for all, which extends to the mental as well as the physical health of staff. It is recognised that most people will, at some point in their lives, experience problems and difficulties arising from a variety of sources which may result in the manifestation of stress-related symptoms. The Business Case The Health and Safety Executive estimate that a significant percentage of all work absence is caused by stress-related illness. This implies huge potential costs for employers in terms of the number of lost working days each year. In addition, there are indirect or hidden costs associated with individuals being stressed and who turn up for work each day but whose effectiveness may be impaired. The knock-on effects on other staff may also be considerable with their stress levels increased. Overall, morale and health suffer creating a decrease in overall performance and productivity, poor relations, an increased risk of accidents and increased staff turnover. The Legal Case Although there is no specific law relating to stress at work the University has a general duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to ensure as far as reasonably practicable the health of its employees at work. In addition, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require the University to assess the risks to health and safety that its employees are exposed to whilst at work and to implement appropriate preventive and protective measures to control those risks. 2

3 How will we deal with stress? Although no employer can guarantee to protect the psychological well being of all staff members, the harmful effects of work-related stress can be mitigated and in some cases prevented by adopting strong, positive management standards. The University is committed to a three-tier approach to stress at work Primary: reducing stress at source, through good management practices Secondary: identifying early signs of workplace stress and assisting individuals to deal more effectively with the pressures of their work, Tertiary: limiting the impact of established cases by helping people cope and recover from the effects of stress. Managers have an important role to play in all three tiers of activity and in their intermediary role between individual staff members and the University as a whole they can have a significant effect on how successful the University is in managing stress. They:- can prevent (or conversely cause) stress by the way in which they behave towards their staff can influence whether staff are protected from or are exposed to stressful working conditions are, by working closely with their staff, well positioned to identify stress in others at an early stage are likely to be involved in the solution if one of their staff suffers from stress hold the key to the success of work development or change initiatives oversee the risk assessment procedures for work related stress within their team or department. In the HSE s view -..stress management doesn t have to be a separate activity; it is part of everyday management. It is about the way that you behave on a day to day basis with those you manage. What is the role of risk assessment in prevention? The University requires all Heads of Department to ensure that assessments are made of the risks arising from hazards at work. The assessments must include those risks which pose a threat to psychological as well as the physical health and safety of staff. Assessment of the risks associated with workplace stress should aim to identify: factors at work that are likely to cause stress. whether those factors are currently causing stress. those members of staff who are at risk of experiencing workplace stress. existing preventative or precautionary measures. the action required to eliminate or reduce risk with clear timescales and lines of responsibility. 3

4 The principles of risk assessment for work-related stress do not differ from other forms of risk assessment. There is, however, a need to take account of the individual perceptions of stress as well as to assess objectively any work conditions that are likely to cause stress. Managers will be trained in stress risk assessment procedures which will be based on the assessment of compliance with the HSE Stress Management Standards. What are the HSE Stress Management Standards? The HSE has identified six key areas or risk factors that can be causes of work-related stress. These are: the demands of the job an individual s control over their work the support received from managers and colleagues relationships at work an individual s role in the organisation change and how it is managed. The HSE has produced Management Standards for each risk factor which includes targets for organizations to aim towards. The standards are intended to help managers to understand the causes of stress at work as well as providing a means to assess performance. Demands Includes issues like workload, work patterns, and the work environment Employees indicate that they are able to cope with the demands of their jobs; and The University provides employees with adequate and achievable demands in relation to the agreed hours of work People s skills and abilities are matched to the job demands; Jobs are designed to be within the capabilities of employees; and Employees concerns about their work environment are addressed. Control How much say the person has in the way they do their work Employees indicate that they are able to have a say about the way they do their work; and Where possible, employees have control over their pace of work; Employees are encouraged to use their skills and initiative to do their work; Where possible, employees are encouraged to develop new skills to help them undertake new and challenging pieces of work; The organisation encourages employees to develop their skills; Employees have a say over when breaks can be taken; and 4

5 Employees are consulted over their work patterns. Support Includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues Employees indicate that they receive adequate information and support from their colleagues and superiors; and The organisation has policies and procedures to adequately support employees; Systems are in place to enable and encourage managers to support their staff Systems are in place to enable and encourage employees to support their colleagues; Employees know what support is available and how and when to access it; Employees know how to access the required resources to do their job; and Employees receive regular and constructive feedback. Relationship Includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour Employees indicate that they are not subjected to unacceptable behaviours, e.g. bullying at work; and The organisation promotes positive behaviours at work to avoid conflict and ensure fairness; Employees share information relevant to their work; The organisation has agreed policies and procedures to prevent or resolve unacceptable behaviour; Systems are in place to enable and encourage managers to deal with unacceptable behaviour; and Systems are in place to enable and encourage employees to report unacceptable behaviour. Role Whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that the person does not have conflicting roles Employees indicate that they understand their role and responsibilities; and 5

6 The organisation ensures that, as far as possible, the different requirements it places upon employees are compatible; The organisation provides information to enable employees to understand their role and responsibilities; The organisation ensures that, as far as possible, the requirements it places upon employees are clear; and Systems are in place to enable employees to raise concerns about any uncertainties or conflicts they have in their role and responsibilities. Change How organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation Employees indicate that the organisation engages them frequently when undergoing an organisational change; and The organisation provides employees with timely information to enable them to understand the reasons for proposed changes; The organisation ensures adequate employee consultation on changes and provides opportunities for employees to influence proposals; Employees are aware of the probable impact of any changes to their jobs. If necessary, employees are given training to support any changes in their jobs; Employees are aware of timetables for changes; Employees have access to relevant support during changes. What Support Will the University Provide? Training Heads of Departments and Offices, PIs and departmental managers will receive training on wellbeing at work. The training will equip managers to: understand the effect of stress on health recognise the potential causes of work-related stress understand how good management techniques can help to minimise stress triggers recognise the signs and symptoms of stress in themselves and others develop strategies for managing stress carry out stress risk assessments 6

7 In line with the wellbeing approach the University offers the following services to all staff members: Staff Counselling and Wellbeing Emotional support Staff Counselling and Wellbeing aims to help you resolve problems, make decisions, cope with crises, develop personal insight, work through difficult feelings or improve relationships with others Advice Staff Counselling and Wellbeing aims to support staff achieve an effective balance between work and personal issues. Advice and support can be accessed on a confidential basis via phone, or face to face meetings and information is available on a range of issues. Occupational Health The University Occupational Health Service can be accessed via referral through Human Resources Safety Services Where stress may be arising from workplace factors such as noise or poor lighting or through concern over other health and safety issues such as the provision of adequate fire precautions or possible exposure to asbestos, managers may contact the Safety Services Office for assessment and advice. What next? Dealing with stress will be a continuing responsibility for all members of staff. In order to ensure that the University s arrangements are relevant and effective, it is essential that stress management policy and performance is kept under review and the University s Health and Safety Management Group and the Health and Safety Committee will play key roles in overseeing this process. Performance review will involve: reactive measures such as confidential monitoring of incidences of work-related stress proactive measures such as staff questionnaires* and the continuous review of best practice and official guidance. *The HSE recommends that organisations use its Indicator Tool to gauge the prevalence of stress at work amongst the workforce. The tool, used with care, can be a useful indicator of potential pressure points in an individual s role and the summary produced by the tool software would be a useful basis for discussion, for example, at appraisal. Used as an element of appraisal preparation, it would have the following benefits: assessment is at the level of the individual (where stress is experienced) it would not impose an additional bureaucratic burden it would allow a proactive approach to identifying stress responsibility for managing the outcome would be shared between the member of staff and their manager 7

8 Additionally, if all the individual responses were aggregated (which the software permits) it would be possible to generate a departmental profile (although this would involve a data input load at departmental level or systems development by ITS to enable automatic aggregation). Once managers have participated in the wellbeing training programme, it is recommended that the HSE Indicator Tool be incorporated into appraisal preparation. 8

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