Stressed about stress?

HR professionals can influence the shape of new standards being developed to
help employers manage stress at work by taking part in a joint Personnel Today
and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) survey.

The online survey launched today is designed to provide the HSE with key
data about the wide range of issues associated with work-related stress,
including the causes, its impact and possible solutions.

The HSE will use the results as part of the process of fine-tuning its
stress management standards (see box, right), currently being piloted among 24
private and public sector organisations.

The standards are being developed to provide a framework to help employers
identify and address stress at work and are due to be phased in over the course
of 2004.

The creation of the management standards reflects the HSE’s increasing
concern over stress, highlighted by CIPD figures revealing that stress is the
biggest cause of long-term absence for white collar staff and the second
biggest for manual workers.

Elizabeth Gyngell, head of the HSE’s better working environment division,
urged employers to take part in the survey.

"We very much welcome the opportunity to work with Personnel Today to
explore views from the HR experts that will help us fine-tune the standards and
shape the future of our work," she said.

"This is a major issue that needs to be tackled, and although commonly
called stress, its causes and solutions are about work organisation."

Stress hit the national headlines last month when the HSE took the
unprecedented step of ordering an NHS trust to tackle the way it managed stress
at work.

However, Gyngell emphasised that the regulatory body’s preferred method of
tackling the issue was a consultative one.

"The HSE’s approach to tackling work-related stress is very much based
on listening and engaging honestly with those who also want to find
solutions," she said.

By Ben Willmott

What HR needs to know

The HSE’s draft stress management standards are based on six
causes of stress at work: demand, control, support, relationships, role and

– Organisations satisfy the first three standards (demand,
control and support) if 85 per cent of staff surveyed indicate they are happy
with their work in these areas

– The remaining three standards are achieved if 65 per cent of
staff report they are satisfied

– HSE inspectors are being trained to help organisations tackle
stress in the workplace

– Once the pilot scheme is finished, there will be a full
consultation over the standards this autumn

Take part in the survey at

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