reducing workplace stress

Up to a point, stress is good for us. It’s when we become overwhelmed and the ‘positive’ stress that makes us feel energised and alert becomes ‘negative’ stress, which makes us feel out of control, nervous and anxious that the problems begin.

In serious cases, negative stress can lead to mental health problems. Work-related mental stress claims are the most expensive form of compensation claim because of the often- lengthy periods of absence from work typical of these claims. According to Safe Work Australia’s report The Incidence of Workers’ Compensation Claims for Mental Stress in Australia, mental stress is responsible for 5% of work-related injuries, resulting in a direct cost to employers of more than $10 billion per year due to stress-related presenteeism and absenteeism.

Mental stress can occur in any industry or sector but occupations in nursing, teaching, caring and social work are particularly vulnerable. In some instances the solution lies in treating the person, while in others it will be a case of adjusting the job in question to remove or reduce the conditions that give rise to excessive stress.

Stress occurs in the workplace when there is an imbalance between the demands and pressures of a job and the worker’s skills and ability. Interestingly, too few demands can create stress just as easily as too many demands. Although not contagious in the strict sense of the term, a failure to tackle stress can have knock-on effects, especially if workplace relations suffer and absence of one employee through stress adds to the workload and pressure on others.

On the other hand, dealing with workplace stress has major benefits for both employers and employees. Research indicates that in low-stress environments the quality of work is higher, there is less absenteeism, there is an improved return on training and development, relationships between customers, suppliers and the organisation improve, morale is higher and workers feel more committed to their job and their employer.

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