Time to stop all this worry about stress

Four
reports on stress in a week is enough to make anyone stressed, especially HR
professionals who end up managing the whole nebulous concept of “stress at
work”.

The public
debate on the subject seems to be getting out of hand. It is being set up as
the great malaise of the 21st century. Stress is the thing to blame if
something goes wrong in the workplace today – by employers and staff.

But has
work life really become more stressful? New technology has made it faster
moving, but haven’t high workloads, long hours, pressured deals, not to mention
monotonous factory jobs always existed?

Stress is a
notoriously difficult condition to pin down. Even Black’s Medical Dictionary
does not have a definition of stress among its 4,500 medical terms and
conditions. In practice, it is very hard to separate workplace stress from
personal stress such as a relationship breakdown or a bereavement. When one
large supermarket chain hired a stress counsellor, the subsequent research
showed that so-called stress in the workplace was often a result of a stressful
personal life rather than anything to do with work.

The
constant stream of reports that the public receives on the dangers of stress is
alarming. This week the Employers’ Organisation was alone in putting some
perspective to stress, warning that it is only one reason for sickness absence
in local authorities.

And if
employers are worried about legal action if they do not immediately address
stress in the workplace, they should listen to the employment lawyers who
advise that it is exceptionally difficult for a stress claim to succeed in the
courts.

So maybe it
is time to relax a little on the stress issue.

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