HSE stress management standards have had little effect at work

Fours years after their introduction in a blaze of publicity, the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) management standards for tackling work-related stress have had little, if any, success in reducing stress and anxiety in the workplace, according to the latest research.

Psychosocial Working Conditions in Britain in 2008, a study by the HSE’s Health at Work Group, has concluded that mental health and work conditions in Britain generally have not changed since 2004.

While a report last year did indicate that there had been some improvements, this had not been maintained, it added. In fact, the proportion of employees reporting their jobs as extremely or very stressful, which had previously been falling, had risen this year, although not significantly, it pointed out.

This was despite the fact that the HSE ran a series of high-profile awareness-raising workshops between summer 2006 and spring 2007.

“There is no longer a downward trend in the number of employees reporting that their job is very or extremely stressful and little change in the number of employees aware of stress initiatives in their workplace or reporting discussions about stress with their line managers,” said the report.

A predicted improvement in work-related stress following the roll-out of the management standards had also failed to materialise.

The reasons for this failure were, as yet, unclear, the HSE said. “The lack of impact… could reflect the long latency between organisations first implementing the process and benefits being realised,” it surmised.

“Equally, with so many other economic and social factors affecting worker perceptions of their working conditions, any effect may be masked,” it added.

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