Author Bio ▼

Dr Karen McDonnell is head of RoSPA Scotland & Occupational Health and Safety Policy Adviser. She is also the immediate past president of IOSH.
February 16, 2017

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Is your organisation impacting worker health?

Taking stock is a universal business practice applied across micro to multinational businesses irrespective of sector. Taking time out to appraise performance and future prospects makes sound business sense but how many organisations add the impact of ‘what they do’ to damage the health of their worker into the equation?

The HSE’s Health and Work Strategy clearly outlines the impact of work-related stress on our economy; 1.5% of the working population suffering from work-related stress, depression and anxiety.

There were 11.7 million working days lost during 2015/16: an average of 23.9 days per case and 45% of all working days lost. Big numbers in anyone’s language, and each of these numbers relates to an individual who has been harmed by work, where workloads, demands placed upon them or inadequate support have tipped the balance.

Clearly a business continuity issue… yet on trawling through numerous websites and associated references there is little or no mention of occupational ill-health as a business risk.

People underpin every business process from sales and marketing to balancing the books. What would the impact be on your business if an employee was absent for almost 24 days a year?

It is widely recognised that health, work and wellbeing are closely and powerfully linked, ‘good work is good for us’. However recognising the tell-tale signs of work-related stress and managing this like you would manage any other risk to your organisation is fundamentally important.

RoSPA have a very clear position on mental health in the workplace established through it’s National Occupational Safety & Health Committee. Employers irrespective of the size of their organisation need access to concise, pragmatic guidance on basic good practice to begin to tackle this topic.

The Health Risks at Work Toolkit provides exactly this type of information. How does your organisation recognise the signs, symptoms and effects of work related stress? Has your organisation experienced increased sickness absence or loss of productivity, have you observed frustration, irritability tearfulness or even anger? These symptoms are often linked to unacceptable time constraints or conflicting demands.

Is your organisation at risk? Too much work to do in too little time often leads to work piling up and perhaps nudges employees towards cutting corners. You notice a member of staff arriving late for work on more than one occasion, a drop in the quality of their work or perhaps they are not as productive as usual. These are all indicators that you, your business and your staff may be at risk.

Draw up a business impact assessment that includes work related stress.

What are the risk factors? Who is at risk and why? Engage with staff, develop control measures , implement, monitor their effectiveness and seek support whether this is from a mentor, coach manager or medical professional.

Where the risk factors are under control, employees say they can cope with the demands of their job, their skill set matches the job and its demands and realistic time scales are set for people to meet their targets.

The HSE’s Health and Work Strategy provides all the reasons why micro to multinational businesses need to ‘open the box’ on work related stress.

But unlike Pandora’s box which released all the evils of the world leaving only ‘hope’ inside once she had closed it again, breathing life into the conversation around work related stress brings the management of risks to employee wellbeing into the mindset of UK plc.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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