What stops businesses dealing with stress?

Once a potential client has contacted us to discuss stress management, they have decided to do something about stress in their business. Exactly what they need to do is yet to be agreed, but they have made the decision.

However, there are many HR managers, health and safety managers and managing directors who are not making that decision, they are avoiding doing anything about stress. What is stopping them?

There are any number of reasons, here is a brief summary of the main ones I have come across:-

  1. Stress isn’t “real” – I know that some people still aren’t convinced that stress is a real issue. They think that the media are overstating the effects of stress, and some of their staff are perhaps are just work-shy. However, there are plenty of statistics from some impartial and respected sources such as The Work Foundation, ACAS and the Department of Work and Pensions which show that stress is a real and growing problem for business.  I would recommend businesses keep a close eye on absenteeism rates, staff turnover and performance standards to monitor whether all is as is should be in their workplace.
  2. Lack of understanding – many managers I speak to don’t really understand stress in the context of the workplace. Stress is a word they hear all the time, but don’t know exactly what it means in their own business.
  3. Stress is a dirty word – employers can shy away from the word stress, they get defensive when stress is mentioned, as they see it as an accusation that they are doing something wrong. This of course is not the case, and it is better to know than not to know if stress is having a negative impact on business performance.
  4. “Stress doesn’t always come from the workplace, so it is not our problem” – whether stress comes from work or home is largely immaterial. If an employee is not performing and may take time off sick, it is surely in the businesses’ interests to help as much as possible regardless of the cause?
  5. Potentially opening a can of worms – employers may “know” that stress is an issue in their workplace, but may be afraid of finding out exactly what is going on. Again, it makes business sense to know rather than not to know. Potentially disruptive situations are much better tackled earlier rather than later.
  6. Whose responsibility is it anyway? – the directors? HR? health and safety? In fact, everyone in the workplace has legal responsibilities regarding stress, from the directors to the employees. So everyone is responsible.
  7. Where do you start? – even if a business decides to do something about stress, where do they start? This is a good question and I know this stops lots of businesses taking any action at all. A good place to start would be with the Health & Safety Executive’s guidelines and tools on - Stress.  This is an excellent resource with clear steps to follow.
  8. Lack of time – businesses fear that dealing with stress will be another project they have to find time for. However, when you factor in all the time that is currently spent managing poor performing staff, dealing with absence, recruitment and conflict, tackling stress will save you time in the long run.
  9. Stress is personal not something that concerns an employer – human emotions and feelings are always difficult to deal with in the workplace, and I know plenty of managers avoid asking staff about stress because they are unsure how to deal with the response. However, effective training will provide managers with the skills and confidence they need to support staff.

This post was written by Charlie Damonsing of CLAssociates. CLAssociates specialises in helping businesses manage stress in the workplace, providing consultancy, training and 1-2-1 support. For further details please contact Charlie on 0771 559 6487.