Is stress an occupational health issue?

18 Nov 2022

We know that every workplace has its own unique stressors and challenges and each worker will react differently to stress based on their life experience. We also know that being under stress can contribute to physical, mental and emotional health in a negative way and impact on individuals working to their full capacity.

As an employer it is helpful to understand how stress can present in different people and how you can help your employees cope and remain safe and well while at work. Key to success is having a culture of acceptance and open communication so people feel supported and safe.

What is stress in the workplace?

People may also be under stress in their personal lives which they bring with them to the work environment.  While not a work-related issue there will be a workplace impact as no-one can leave their worries at the door when coming to work.  It is in the best interests of everyone is we acknowledge, accept and assist with any stress related issue.

Just some of the conditions that lead to stressful working conditions include the following:

  • Extreme workloads and lack of role clarity
  • Poor ergonomic design and workflow
  • Poor organisational structures leading to uncertainty and job insecurity
  • Ineffective communication channels
  • Harassment and bullying (psychological, physical or sexual)
  • Difficult relationships with colleagues or managers
  • Balancing work life and home life
Is stress an occupational health and safety issue?

Exposure to excessive and prolonged stress has many adverse side effects, including mental and physical issues, cardiovascular disease, and musculoskeletal problems. So yes, as these conditions affect the individual’s ability to get their work done, stress most certainly falls under the banner of occupational health and safety.

Using occupational health and safety interventions to reduce stress

Stress is a normal part of life and cannot be completely eliminated - what we do want to do however is make sure it is manageable and that people have the support they need to cope in a healthy way.  As with most hazards the first step is identification. Manager education and awareness is critical to the success of workplace stress management. Once identified, communication and change management is key to success.
Overall a healthy workplace culture will incorporate the following key features:

  • Fair and respectful treatment of all workers, placing value on their skills and abilities.
  • Taking stress seriously and putting checks in place to identify workers experiencing stress.
  • Provide health and wellness programmes aimed at educating employees to identify their own stressors and attempt to manage them at source.
  • Incorporate positive health and wellness promotion in your company policies.
  • Ensure support programmes are in place for those needing assistance.
  • Ensuring good job design, workflow balance and appropriate training and resources to give everyone the best opportunity to meet their target.

For more information on occupational health and safety programmes and assessments aimed at stress reduction, contact Habit Health today.