Stress at Work Survey Commentary – Nisha Postlethwaite

Since we published the results of our stress at work survey, we’ve been interviewing people who work in human resources to see what they thought of the results. In the first interview in the series, we have invited Nisha Postlethwaite, from Action Trainers, to give us her opinion on what we found out.[dt_gap height=”10″ /]

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What is your opinion on the results of the survey?[dt_gap height=”10″ /]

The results showed that stress at work as more prevalent among people working in the public sector. I expected to see this as public sector workers are in very challenging positions in the nursing, policing and teaching fields, and workers in these areas are dealing with highly stressful and emotive ‘people’ situations. Also, in my work experience in the public sector, (NHS and FE) there is a continuous focus on reducing costs and restructuring – both these factors increase stress as workers are subsequently working to difficult targets under time constraints and facing organisational change (that may not also be being managed effectively).[dt_gap height=”10″ /]

The survey results showed many employees are afraid to tell their employees they are suffering from stress at work. Again, I think stress at work is still a taboo subject for many and is not taken seriously by some employers – I have met some employers that will not acknowledge stress in the workplace really exists or see it as a weakness, so don’t deal with it properly or pro-actively. From a stressed employee’s perspective, they may feel like a failure at work if they show signs of stress, stress can break a person’s confidence and they may be afraid as being seen as not coping in their role.[dt_gap height=”10″ /]

Poor management came up as a very popular contributor to stress at work. In your experience, do you think it’s as much of a problem as the results indicated?[dt_gap height=”10″ /]

In my experience as an HR practitioner and trainer, I find poor management is the largest contributor to stress at work and see this in organisations of all types and sizes. It may be because there are so many different ways poor management can cause work-related stress both directly and indirectly, and managers have such varying degrees of skill. I have observed and dealt with the following problems that have caused stress at work:[dt_gap height=”10″ /]

  • Management giving staff unrealistic deadlines for large workloads.[dt_gap height=”5″ /]
  • A controlling management style or  micromanaging employees – this causes an oppressive  work environment and makes employees think they are not trusted.[dt_gap height=”5″ /]
  • Employers turning a blind eye and/or encouraging a negative working environment through allowing gossip, open criticism, lack of confidentiality and allowing bullying and harassment.[dt_gap height=”5″ /]
  • Lack of emotional intelligence in the company in managers and employees and not looking at ways to improve this.[dt_gap height=”5″ /]
  • Having a non-supportive workplace culture in terms of health and well-being and lack of consideration, flexibility and empathy for employees outside-work pressures and responsibilities.[dt_gap height=”5″ /]
  • Understaffing – not replacing staff due to sickness and turnover but overloading existing staff instead.[dt_gap height=”5″ /]
  • Having poor or ineffective resources and tools for staff to work with.c
  • Poor management and communication of organisational change.[dt_gap height=”10″ /]

Thirdly, what do you think companies can do to ensure that stress is taken seriously in future?[dt_gap height=”10″ /]

In my work as an HR trainer and through coaching, I encourage companies and individuals to do the following  to prevent future stress in their workplace :[dt_gap height=”10″ /]

  • Train all managers and supervisors  in stress at work, so they understand what stress is, the triggers, and how they can recognise, combat and prevent stress at work.[dt_gap height=”5″ /]
  • Educate managers and  employees in  bullying and harassment at work – how to spot the signs, prevent it and deal with any issues that arise.[dt_gap height=”5″ /]
  • Build and encourage a positive working environment – factoring in  employee recognition, praise, career development opportunities and good communication.[dt_gap height=”5″ /]
  • Companies should have a workable process/policy for dealing with stress that is visible to all in the company – so everyone knows what resources are available for them and how to manage stress at work.[dt_gap height=”5″ /]
  • Encourage a healthy lifestyle for your employees – ensuring they are making time for breaks, and looking after themselves through healthy living.[dt_gap height=”5″ /]
  • Streamline work processes and  remove complicated and unnecessary processes that are adding more work for your staff and wasting time. Get your staff on board during this process – this will encourage their commitment and also provide you with some insightful ideas.[dt_gap height=”5″ /]
  • Work with your employees to break big projects into small steps that are achievable for all.[dt_gap height=”5″ /]
  • Manage and regularly review staffing to ensure it is adequate staffing for busy periods and projects.[dt_gap height=”5″ /]
  • Reskill current staff so they can deal with added and new responsibilities  but so they can also progress and feel valued.[dt_gap height=”5″ /]
  • Keep employees in the loop about company changes etc. through regular meetings and updates – encourage feedback and genuine open communication.[dt_gap height=”5″ /]
  • Ensure systems are in place to enable flexible working when required so employees can balance their working life and outside responsibilities.[dt_gap height=”10″ /]

Thank you Nisha.

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