Expertbase Articles by Graham Y. Personal Development The Cost Of Stress - The Need To Monitor And Manage The Risks!
An Article by
A Business Trainer from Woking, United Kingdom
Advantages And Challenges Of ExportingBy Tekle S.
7%-38%-55% Communications MythBy Robert P.
Top 10 Big Mistakes Of Big BusinessBy Francis T.
Climate Change Is Real! Act Now!By Kathrin G.
Improving The Quality Of Decision MakingBy Niladri R.
Advantages And Challenges Of ExportingBy Tekle S.
Top 10 Big Mistakes Of Big BusinessBy Francis T.
Best Practice Benchmarking - The Path To ExcellenceBy Robert C C.
What Is A Healthy Company?By Raymond H.
Challenges And Opportunities In The New EconomyBy Alkistis A.
Also Interesting ...
Coaching Virtual Multicultural TeamsBy Peter B.
Six Successful Habits To Increase Productivity And Your Client BaseBy Charles M.
Creating A World Of New PossibilitiesBy Oshana H.
Building High Performance OrganisationsBy Prof Sattar B.
What Is A Healthy Company?By Raymond H.
The Cost Of Stress - The Need To Monitor And Manage The Risks!
Not only are there a lot of potential risks arising from the spread of stress within an organisation, it costs a great deal of money!
You probably have some degree of interest in working with organisations with a view to helping them reduce or prevent risk. Between you, you pay attention to financial risk, product or process failure, safety issues, hazards, information risk, corporate governance etc. etc.
All very necessary concerns for organisations, people and economies, local and beyond. Yet, how much attention is paid to one of the biggest underlying risk factors within an organisation - the effects of stress.
Let us start with looking at some hard-nosed numbers.
* The CBI estimate that there is a cost of GBP 4bn per annum to industry as a direct result of stress related absence.
* This figure can rise to over GBP 7bn when you consider the loss of productivity!
* A recent survey by the HSE indicated over 550,000 cases of absence as a result of stress, depression and anxiety.
* A further 66,000 were absent with heart problems as a result of stress.
* There was a loss of nearly 13m working days in total.
* The average absence was 28.5 days for stress-related issues.
* 1 in 5 believe that their job is extremely or very stressful - that is 5 million people!
* Up to 40% of absence is related to stress.
* When stressed, performance can be reduced by up to 70%
* The CIPD estimate that stress costs industry GBP 522 per employee.
Had enough of this? Moving on to think about the risk of unmanaged stress to organisations we can start by looking at the "knock-on" risks.
Where an organisation is suffering from stress problems there will be a number of probable consequences, all with ensuing costs to the business. Also, what other risks might they contribute to?
1. If the atmosphere is getting worse there will be an increase in staff turnover. The costs of this are often overlooked or hidden behind some spurious justification. What is the direct cost of recruiting replacements? Oh, and the indirect costs? What is the cost of the loss of the experience and expertise? Staff turnover disrupts business in many ways and reduces profitability. Simultaneously, costs will increase too!
2. When individuals are suffering from stress their work performance is likely to deteriorate. The quality of decision-making will go down, possibly with faulty judgments being made. What is the risk to the organisation of this? It is probable that the rate of casual errors will increase too - with what consequences?
3. The relations between people will be effected, for the worse! As communication, support or teamworking deteriorate then people will not enjoy coming to work and levels of commitment are likely to reduce. This will probably mean that customer service gets worse too - again, with what consequences? (This will also apply to internal customers as well as external.)
4. As people become less motivated, and even demotivated, their productivity goes down and the impact of that is????
When we take into account the figures and also these probable knock-on effects, it makes sense to think about managing the organisation in a way, which will reduce the potential impact of stress. Indeed, that is a key part of one of the HSE initiatives and the introduction of their "Management Standards for Stress." Although these are not compulsory in themselves, there is legislation around it! There is the duty of care and responsibility attached to managers as part of the Health and Safety legislation. This means undertaking risk assessments, creating a positive environment and managing work activity to reduce stress and pressure at work.
Before going further into these, let us consider what is meant by this word, "stress". The HSE define it as "the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them." A simpler option is to think of it as "the internalisation of pressure " where it exceeds your ability to cope." When we hear people say things such as "We all need some degree of stress", what is really being said is that we need some level of pressure to galvanise us to action. These pressures can come from all sorts of sources in a work and personal lives " and within ourselves too.
The figure below, "The Pressure Curve" shows what we mean by this. If the amount of pressure is not high enough, we do not feel the need to respond and so performance is likely to be down. (Wonderfully called "rust out" in certain circles.) Have you ever gone into a shop, restaurant or somewhere on a very quiet day? What was the response and service like" This end of the scale can lead to problems from the boredom level!
Get the pressure "right" and we are triggered to respond in the most effective way " and will operate at our "optimal performance" level. Moving along towards the end, the pressure levels increase and when this is too much the response is what most people think of as the classic stress problem, "burn out"
This rarely just "happens" suddenly. The pressures build up, the symptoms will become more and more obvious, the physiological and behavioural clues will be more noticeable. If the situation does not change, and the pressure become more manageable, the person who is at this end will probably start to become ill as the body sends out signals to say it needs to protect itself against this burnout.
The challenge facing managers with this concept is to identify what is the "optimal" amount of pressure for each person in their team. We each interpret pressures in different ways. What one of us may shrug off, another will think of as a crisis and vice versa. Add to this, we all have various pressures influencing us which are external to our work. These can range from personal relationships to financial, environmental to practical such as travelling. Then there is the human capacity to create pressure on ourselves through having unreasonable expectations or by finding things to worry about over which we have no control! How well do managers know their team members to assess their personal "negative" and "positive" pressures?
Why do the figures show such an increase in stress related problems in recent years? Has that much changed? In short, yes! There are a number of factors, and these are an indicator and not a comprehensive list.
* Workloads - reductions in headcount yet the same or more work expected of the people left behind
* The pace of life, hassles with getting around, speed of response to things
* Expectations - of self and others
* Lack of control over aspects of our lives
* Values not being met or having to operate in conflict with our values
What can organisations do to monitor and manage the stress risk?
One of the first things to acknowledge that there is a risk. Too many managers, especially senior executives, want to hide their heads in the sand and deny that there is a problem, or potential problem. They certainly do not want to suggest that they may be a significant contributor to the problem! Stress is not a problem confined to the executive suite! In fact, a higher percentage of the workforce down the line will suffer stress-related problems than senior management. Having said that, the consequences to the organisation and the people of an over-stressed senior manager can be horrendous!
The organisation can use a number of factors to assess whether there is problem. As in most forms of good management, gathering data is key. Work from facts and not only conjecture, though do not ignore it.
One of the "standards" is to look at absenteeism, both the levels and any patterns. Is the level static or increasing? Is any area of the organisation suffering more than the others? What happens when employees return to work, do you have a meeting with them to find out the real reasons for the absence, and what you can do to prevent them recurring? Also, will the organisation offer support to help the employee? If there is a pattern in one area, what is being done to address the cause? (Is it the nature of the work, or the manager or the environment?)
Look at the quality information. Is there an increase in errors, customer complaints or, are other standards not being achieved? Before chasing the teams or individuals and demanding improvements, explore why things have begun to slip. Talk to people about what is going on and how they feel.
What is happening to the staff turnover figures? Any trends apparent? Is the organisation using exit interviews to find the real reasons behind the departure?
To get a proper overview as an organisation, a good starting point is to carry out a simple audit. Questions in these areas will help to get an immediate sense of where the organisation is in terms of meeting the HSE criteria. It will also highlight where issues may occur.
* The culture of your organisation - how does it approach work-related stress?
* Demands on people, such as workload and exposure to physical hazards. Is work sensibly scheduled so that the workload levels are right?
* Control over their work and the way they do it - how much say do staff have? Are managers reasonable in their expectations and treatment of their teams?
* Relationships - how do you deal with issues such as bullying or harassment? (Another point, up to 1 in 5 people report they have been bullied at work.)
* Organisational change - how is it managed and communicated?
* Understanding of role - do individuals understand their role in the organisation? Does the organisation ensure that individuals do not have conflicting roles or challenges? (Is there a clear definition of roles?)
* Support and training from peers and line managers for the person to be able to do the core functions of the job - do you cater for individual needs and differences?
How well would your workplace score? Which areas could do with some attention? Remember, prevention is usually preferable to cure in most things. In this case, it is almost certainly a less expensive option! Pay attention to these factors and the organisation can start to address stress early on, preventing it becoming a problem.
Another thing for the management team to do is to develop an understanding of stress, its causes, symptoms and consequences. They can then begin to operate in a way which will create a healthier organisation. They can monitor the "health" using the approach above - and then set about managing to maintain a healthy environment. The secret to stress management is not about learning to relax, exercise or other coping strategies, although these do help. It is about getting to the cause of the problem and dealing with it from there. Good management practices, good communication, and supporting and caring for people will all help to reduce the risk of stress. Reduce stress and you reduce risks in many other areas of the business.
Got an opinion? Want to thank Graham?
23 more Articles by Graham
9 min. How many times have you said something and realised that the person, or people, on the receiving end have not fully understood what you meant or headed ...
7 min. When you are a leader in a business you face a number of challenges at different levels. Ask yourself how much focus you put on to these...
7 min. A look at why developing greater resilience matters.
4 min. Some differences and grey areas where Coaching or Mentoring overlap
8 min. The benefits of having a defined sales process
8 min. Who tells the boss that they can improve their management or leadership? How do they look at themselves objectively and identify what areas they can improve and the benefits of doing so?
8 min. Are you hitting or beating your sales target or quota? If not, are you blaming the market, the customers or your competition? If you are making your target ...
10 min. A challenge for most managers is to initiate or implement change programmes - and lead people through them, whether in the way they work or what they do. In this, lies one of your major challenges...
9 min. How to improve the accuracy of your sales forecasts
7 min. Most organisations and many managers within them are probably aware of the costs and consequences of stress and stress related problems. They may have ...
9 min. It is not about having some new magic method for selling, it is about applying the things you have perhaps forgotten.
9 min. Enhance your negotiation skills to keep afloat in tough times
8 min. How many sales teams suffer because their sales manager is not doing their job at the right "level"? Sales figures suffer, sales people suffer and the ...
7 min. If you are involved with sales, how do you feel when you hear phrases such as, "Can you do anything about your price" or, "You'll have to do better than ...
POP6 min. How do you prefer to "control and influence" others?
6 min. Decent management communication and support, plus personal development for the people can combine to help prevent a lot of the issues which lead to pressure ...
7 min. Too many organisations are "over-managed and under-led" to quote Warren Bennis. There is a difference between leadership and management.
17 min. Have you had this feeling before? Rest assured you are not alone. You might be one of the many who would rate your fear of public speaking alongside or ...
6 min. It is estimated that about 60% of GBP 23bn in lost productivity in the UK is from presenteeism!
6 min. Stress and mental health are not issues which managers should ignore. They cost the organisation money, both directly and indirectly.
8 min. When a company's culture is not right with what is needed for strategic success, the culture has to be changed as rapidly as can be managed!
15 min. The simple answer to the above is, "both"! It depends on a number of things. Perhaps the first thing to explore is your reaction to seeing those three ...