Posted on Aug 23rd, 2006

It is estimated that 500,000 people in the UK are suffering illness that has been caused by stress in the workplace, with a further 5 million people reporting themselves as being very or extremely stressed whilst at work. Stress at work also affects people’s life outside work too, with 55% of full time workers saying that they took their stress home with them at the end of the day.

Mind, a mental health organisation, found that stress costs 10% of the UK’s Gross National Product, but over 90% of companies do not have any strategies in place to deal with it. 12.8 million days a year are recorded as being lost to stress, but it is thought that up to 50 million days are lost in which stress plays a part.

What is stress?
Stress is a reaction that comes from a survival mechanism from our history, when it fuelled our “fight or flight” response. Nowadays, a certain level of stress can be healthy and can build motivation at work, but when this becomes seen as an impossible burden rather than an achievable challenge, this turns into negative stress.

Negative stress is defined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as being “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them.”

What are the symptoms of stress?
There are many symptoms of stress, and people who are stressed may display one, several or many of them. What starts off as a mental symptom of stress may build into a physical condition, and some physical illnesses may be worsened by stress.

- Physical symptoms include problems with sleep, tension headaches and migraines, heart disease, fatigue and high blood pressure.

- Mental symptoms include anxiety, depression, irritability, memory problems, and a feeling of being out of control.

- Relational symptoms include increased arguments with colleagues and family, road rage, lack of interest in social activities, and overreactions.

What can an employer do to reduce stress?

Recognising the causes and effects of stress on employees is an important place to start for a company trying to reduce levels of stress. There is a range of ways in which an employer can go about reducing stress, and some may be more appropriate to certain jobs than others. Here are some of the ways in which companies have helped reduce the effects of stress:

- Introducing flexible working, either by allowing employees to work from home or starting a flexi-time scheme

- Promoting lunchtime exercise or relaxation classes

- Encouraging stressed workers to see counsellors

- Provide interpersonal skills training

- Setting clear roles for employees and ensuring they understand them

- Making sure that employees are in the most appropriate roles

- Encouraging employees to take their full lunch break and not to work late

What to do if you are stressed at work
If you are stressed at work, the best things to do are voice your concerns to your manager, and try to work out what is causing you to be stressed and find some strategies to reduce your level of stress.

If your employer will not help, the option of making an accident at work claim may well be open to you, and this will allow you to claim financial compensation for the pain and suffering which you have experienced, as well as any other losses that your stress has caused you. Making an accident at work claim could help improve working conditions for your colleagues, as well as providing you with recompense for the effects that stress had had on you.

Editorial notes: YouClaim helps people all over the UK get compensation for workplace stress and accidents at work. YouClaim’s service is completely cost-free for customers and no deductions are made from compensation awards. For more information, go to http://www.youclaim.co.uk or call 0800 10 757 95.

Author notes: Alexandra Gubbins of http://www.youclaim.co.uk.

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