It’s less obvious than a fire hazard. It’s less dramatic than a 40-foot fall. But make no mistake: Job-related stress can pose a hazard to your workers. It can contribute to the development of heart disease, high blood pressure, and back pain; it can distract workers so completely that they commit deadly errors. So, how can you identify and address this insidious hazard before someone has a heart attack?
Here are some ideas for midlevel managers, department heads, and supervisors to identify and address job-related stress in the workforce, adapted from the U.K.-based nonprofit Stress Management Society.
Stress from Above and Below: A Midlevel Management Checklist
Midlevel managers and department heads in health and safety need to maintain an awareness of and form strategies to address job stress in the workforce. In fact, they may need to deal with the stress of workers both above and below them in the hierarchy.
The Stress Management Society recommends that health and safety managers identify and deal with work-related stress issues by:
- Being well-informed. As with many health issues, there are best practices for dealing with work-related stress, and these are frequently updated with new information.
- Adding stress to risk assessments. Don’t leave job-related stress out of health risk assessments.
- Knowing what’s happening. Find a way to stay in the loop about organizational changes that could increase workers’ stress levels. Keep your finger on the overall pulse of employees so that you can quickly identify and respond to workers who appear to be suffering from stress-related issues.
- Keeping workers informed. Pass along relevant information about stress-related illness and stress management to workers.
- Communicating with upper management. If you have concerns about stress or stress risk among workers, make sure to provide feedback to upper management about it. Make sure to identify any issues surrounding worker privacy, and fulfill any obligation you may have to protect worker confidentiality.
- Getting personal. If you notice that an individual worker is suffering frequent absenteeism, poor performance, or some other indicator of excessive job stress, find out what’s going on.
Supervisors and Job-Related Stress
The primary responsibility for dealing with workplace stress within the organization properly belongs with upper levels of management. But supervisors play a critical role in implementing stress management programs.
Supervisors can contribute to stress relief in the workplace by:
- Watching for absenteeism. Supervisors are in the best position to identify workers who are frequently absent and to determine whether stress is part of the problem.
- Identifying sources of stress. Supervisors should be aware of potential stressors that could affect their workers.
- Communicating with management. Supervisors should report their concerns about workers and stress to senior management, although they should also be careful to protect workers’ confidentiality.