Much like any other health and safety concern, the management of workplace stress falls under the responsibility of both the individual and the employer. Without collective awareness and team effort, managing stress within a workforce is a difficult task. It’s only when employers and staff work together that workplace stress becomes manageable, instead of a slippery slope which could lead to extended periods of absence from the workplace, or perhaps worse in extreme cases.
Stress should be considered as serious as any other physical work related injury. Unfortunately though there is a stigma attached to many mental health conditions which makes them difficult to talk about, especially when the time comes for that conversation to be had between an employee and their employer.
Regardless of how difficult these conversations might be, all employers’ have a legal duty to protect their workforce from stress, much in the same way they are also legally responsible from protecting their staff from other forms of harm.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) defines workplace, or work-related stress as:
“The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them.”
Stress happens within a workforce when individuals are overwhelmed by a task or workload, it may be influenced by external pressures and could be worsened by things like; looming deadlines, financial pressure or even skill-fade. further defines stress and some of the symptoms that employees may experience when they are under excessive pressure at work:
“Stress is usually a reaction to mental or emotional pressure. It's often related to feeling like you're losing control over something, but sometimes there's no obvious cause. When you're feeling anxious or scared, your body releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. This can be helpful for some people and stress might help you get things done or feel more motivated. But it might also cause physical symptoms such as a faster heartbeat or sweating. If you're stressed all the time it can become a problem.”