Health and Wellbeing Week is underway in London to great fanfare from many major businesses as well as luminaries such as the Mayor of London who declares in characteristically robust fashion that he wants the capital to be “the healthiest city in the world”. Indeed, this initiative has been launched to coincide with the European Week for Safety and Health at Work with the outgoing mayor emphasising the need to “spread the important message that healthier workplaces can also benefit the bottom line”.
The story behind the health and wellbeing initiative and its purpose is explained in an excellent article from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) on its website which can be found at http://www.iosh.co.uk/News/Boris-Johnson-backs-London-Health-and-Wellbeing-Week.aspx and it provides greater detail which includes the four key themes (4Ws) for the week.
Among these ‘W’ themes is the workplace and, specifically, the need to prevent workers from becoming ill through workplace hazards. This is the key theme that I address here – and arguably it is the most important of them all. In particular, stress in the workplace is something that should now come to the forefront and be tackled head-on through these initiatives both at home and abroad.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveals in its most recent statistics that the total number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in Great Britain in 2013/14 was 487,000 (39%) out of a total of 1.24 million cases for all work-related illnesses. The number of new cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2013/14 was 244,000, while the total number of working days lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2013/14 was 11.3 million.
Clearly, these figures have a commensurate impact on the “bottom line”. So how can they be properly confronted? HSE already offers the framework for employers to cope better with an issue which is too often ignored or quietly sidelined because of the perceived stigma in recognising in the first instance that such a problem may even exist within any organisation.
HSE defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them.” Its Management Standards for Work-Related Stress represent what it describes as “a set of conditions that, if present, reflect a high level of health, wellbeing and organisational performance.” I concur. In my view, the standards offer an opportunity to develop a systematic approach, free of blame or stigma. As HSE rightly points out: “Stress can hit anyone at any level of the business. Recent research shows that work related stress is widespread and is not confined to particular sectors, jobs or industries. That is why a population-wide approach is necessary to tackle it”.
The management standards define “the characteristics, or culture, of an organisation where the risks from work-related stress are being effectively managed and controlled.” These standards cover “six key areas of work design that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health and well-being, lower productivity and increased sickness absence.” They represent the “primary sources” of stress at work.
The six management standards therefore come under the distinctive headings of Demands, Control, Support, Relationships, Role and Change. Each of these standards requires that systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns. According to HSE, the management standards “demonstrate good practice through a step-by-step risk assessment approach” and allow up-to-date assessment using surveys and other techniques as well as “promoting active discussion and working in partnership with employees.” It concludes that the standards help to simplify risk assessment for work-related stress by identifying the main risk factors for work-related stress, helping employers focus on underlying causes and prevention, and “providing a yardstick by which organisations can gauge their performance in tackling the key causes of stress.”
You can read everything you need to know about the management standards at http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards/index.htm … it could possibly change your entire business ethos.
And it might very well benefit your bottom line!