In previous generations, work-related stress just simply wasn’t an issue. You got paid to do a job and you went in and did it, and dealt with any pressures it might throw at you.
Nowadays it is widely recognised that not dealing with stress can be both structurally and financially damaging for businesses. The stark reality of just how many people suffer from work-related stress has been highlighted by recent research from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
This found that 5 million UK workers are having their mental and physical health damaged by a high-level of stress.
Put simply, if this pattern is accurate and carried through all organisations, a fifth of your employees are in the target zone.
A separate CBI survey looking at absence, which is inextricably linked to stress, claims the UK lost £10bn in 1999 through lost working days. Clearly it is a massive problem.
So although we might wince at the prospect of more health and safety red tape, it really is not surprising that the HSE is to take steps to spell out to employers how to deal with workplace stress.
The HSE’s likely action is unclear. What it must do, if it really wants to help employers deal with these problem, is set out detailed and practical advice, focussing on job design and management.
With that ammunition, they will be better prepared to start making inroads into dealing with the problem.
This will be a challenge, but it will also be an opportunity for HR. High-levels of stress in an organisation are not good for the performance of the company.
The flipside to this, of course, is that if you address the problem and manage to mitigate the impact of stress on the business there will be clear benefits.
It will be clear to the company that the HR department can deal with staff issues that have an impact on the bottom line.
It may seem like just another burden for HR to deal with, but could also be another opportunity to put yourself in the driving seat. Start planning now.