Drowning in a Rising Tide of Stress?
Members increasingly report 'stress' as being a hazard in the workplace, causing them mental and physical ill-health, and negatively affecting life both in work and at home. In one of our workplaces, over 60% of members surveyed said that they were stressed citing overwork, understaffing, and onerous performance management and pay systems.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, stress is an adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work.”. Triggers include:
- A culture of bullying, harassment or discrimination
- Insecure work
- Varying shift patterns
- Micro-management and monitoring at work
- Under-resourcing and increasing work intensification
The impact can be temporary, varying from headaches and insomnia, through to long-term illnesses such as heart disease and nervous breakdown. It can also aggravate existing medical conditions.
Work really shouldn’t make you sick!
Stress needs to be identified as a workplace hazard like any other, and be taken as seriously as a fire risk or chemical hazard. We have created this page to share resources on dealing with workplace, including making it part of your collective campaigns. We always welcome your ideas, so let us know if you have any suggestions for useful material. We aim to add case studies following on from the recent reps and activist forum on stress, with examples of plans, processes for identifying and dealing with workplace stress.
In a recent national study, 40% of employers said that the recession has increased their organisation's focus on reducing absence levels and costs. This inevitably leads to an expectation that workers will do more, work longer hours, and forego pay increases. No wonder stress has become a local and national issue. Yet too often this is a false economy, ultimately leading to poor productivity and long-term ill-health. We aim to campaign across the branch to put an end to work related stress.
The Labour Research Department has highlighted the increasing place of stress at the top of the hazards list:
“The top four (workplace) hazards are stress, bullying/harassment, overwork, back strains and long hours at work. Stress was once again the top hazard and identified by 70% of safety representatives in the survey. Long hours has replaced slips, trips and falls as one of the five most frequently cited hazards at work by safety reps, according to the TUC’s 11th biennial safety representatives’ survey.”
Labour Research Deparment - see their website for a range of guides on workplace issues.
The trade union Hazards Magazine has echoed these sentiments, saying:
"The effects of workplace stress are a major problem in the UK with over 400,000 people suffering from stress related illnesses caused by their work every year. Secondly, that the solution is to remove or reduce the stressors."
Hazards Magazine - see their website for useful resources on dealing with hazards
Hazards magazine, has provided a damning overview of the situation whilst also questioning the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) role to effectively regulate, as it does not enforce measures, only investigates complaints. They also argue that although avoiding stress can be part of a 'well-being' policy or campaign, this is often not recognised as being of equal importance as well-known, work-related physical risks. There is clearly a long way to go to raise awareness, develop support and remove the hazards that are causing the stress. Our branch aims to be part changing this unhealthy and growing problem by campaigning with you.
- Unite Stress guide
A recently updated and detailed guide which defines stress, sets out the process for risk assessments, and gives an overview of the legal obligations of employers. You can download individual copies here or order in bulk by contacting unite.LE1111@gmail.com
- Stress Diary
A Stress Diary is a good way to gather evidence on the stressors affecting you or your members. It has been adapted specifically for our branch for reps and members to download and use.
- Stress Survey
This generic Stress Survey can be adapted to your workplace. You might also want to consider using the online survey tool ‘Survey Monkey’ directly or via the branch. This tool automatically generates reports and charts on responses for easier This can be used in conjunction with handing out and collecting surveys from members and non members.analysis.
- Stress Presentation
Reps may find this Stress Presentation useful. It has been developed by unions and adapted by this branch to train reps. It advises on defining stress, identifying the impact, using risk assessments, and creating collective campaigns.
- Tackling workplace stress TUC / HSE Guide
Tackling workplace stress using the HSE stress management standards
- Balls to Stress!
As part of raising awareness and campaigning, we can arrange for promotional ‘stress balls’ to be sent to your reps team to distribute. Contact unite.LE1111@gmail.com to make your request. You can also choose items from here and then ask the branch to order them for you.