Work Stress
David Shackleton.

image Stress related illness might result from many factors, at home and at work. Although it is important to take domestic factors into account, the employer cannot control them or be held responsible for them. Health risks at work have to be assessed and controlled – it’s the law.

The Health and Safety Executive have identified six aspects of work that may be the source of work related stress and it is important to be able to show that these are being considered, in relation to the individual employee and their job.

The six stress factors are covered by the HSE Stress Management Standards.

One way of assessing the problems that can lead to stress in an individual is to ask about them at the time of formal and informal job appraisal. The line manager or assessor should consider each factor in terms of whether it is reasonable or unreasonable, taking into account the persons qualifications and experience.

It is important to make a record of the points that were covered, the presence or absence of problems and the actions considered necessary or not necessary. No work stress risk assessment is complete if it does not include the assessors opinion on whether each factor is reasonable or not reasonable.

Questions about work-stress
The six stress management factors are shown below, with a brief explanation. For each of the six aspects there is a suggested question that could be incorporated into an appraisal interview. In each case the interviewer might ask for specific examples or reasons to back up a response that has been given.

Demands – such as workload and exposure to physical hazards
Question – How do you cope with the amount of work that you are doing; the physical and mental demands of your job?

Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their job
Question – To what extent do you have a say in the way your work is organised or planned?

Support, training and factors unique to the individual – support from peers and management; training for the person to be able to undertake the core functions of the job; catering for individual differences.
Question – How good are the training, support and resources for the job you are doing, taking into account your own circumstances and abilities?

Relationships – covering issues such as bullying and harassment
Question – How would you describe your relationship with your colleagues and the people who manage you?

Role – whether the individual understands their role in the organisation; and whether the organisation ensures that the person doesn't have conflicting roles
Question – What are the main responsibilities of your job and how you are able to balance them against each other, taking into account the different people you are accountable to?

Change - how organisational change is managed and communicated in the organisation.
Question – If things are changing at work how do you feel they are handled and how are you involved?

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