The Psychology of Managing Stress at Work; JOBS & NEW DIRECTIONS

Article excerpt

Byline: principal psychologist Andrew Walton

HEALTH and safety legislation in this country puts responsibility on an employer to ensure that the work environment is safe both physically and mentally.

Recent court cases have awarded compensation in instances where excessive stress at work has been shown to cause psychological illness. It is true to say that many people thrive on pressure. Knowing there is a deadline frequently, concentrates minds wonderfully. But problems really arise when the pressure becomes stress.

Stress can emanate from many sources, not just at work; divorce, home- buying, bereavement, child/school conflict are common causes of worry. Being able to cope with stress is increasingly becoming a necessary skill. Some progressive companies have been proactive in tackling this problem among their workforces.

The introduction by occupational health or human resource departments of Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) in the past few years have allowed salaried staff and workers to have access to an immediate source of information. This then enables them to address the problem of stress without the need to see a doctor.

A confidential freephone number allows instant access to skilled and experienced counsellors who can then, if necessary, refer the caller to a face-to-face counsellor locally, through their own network of professionals.

A broad range of issues are covered, from child care and elderly relatives and debt management to relationship problems and personal crises, as well as traumatic events, which left unaddressed could lead to preoccupation and distraction in the work place and failures and accidents at work. In a study in the United States, it was discovered that at any given time nearly 10 per cent of a workforce can be preoccupied with personal, non- work related matters, giving rise to a 35 per cent reduction in productivity and efficiency, ultimately resulting in increased staff turnover, and long-term absenteeism and illness. …