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Inveigh against stress at work

Let’s talk about wellbeing, by Frédérik Barbieux
Cliquer ici pour la version française

For several years now, many actions have been implemented by the public authorities and companies to reduce the psychosocial risks and stress at work.

Under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 , employers in the UK have a duty under the law to ensure the health and safety of their employees at work. More broadly, actions might be taken as part of the companies CSR strategy. Or eventually, this can also simply be an aim to increase the economic efficiency.

You will find a lot of information about the psychosocial risks and work-related stress on the HSE website. Amongst all this information, you can read an interesting research commissioned for the UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) that supports the view that a preventive risk-assessment based approach would be more effective than case-based methods in achieving a nationwide reduction in work-related stress. This document, entitled ‘Management Standards’ and work-related stress in the UK: Practical development, offers organisations a continuous improvement tools.

Actions to address the risks fall on three progressive levels:

  • identify people under stress and help them;
  • beyond these symptoms, identify the causes of these situations and correct them;
  • exceed the two previous curative modes by promoting, facilitating or even initiating the wellbeing of all the people the organization meets.

At first, the ‘duty of care’ was focused upon physical wellbeing, but with the increasing recognition that the experience of stress at work was having a negative impact on employees, there has been a shift in the interpretation to include both physical and mental wellbeing.

The 5 elements of wellbeing

According to Tom Rath and James K. Harter, wellbeing is divided into five broad categories that are essential to most of the people they have observed.

These 5 elements correspond to aspects on which we can potentially act and that are important in all life situations:

  • Financial wellbeing: how are we able to effectively manage our economic life?
  • Career wellbeing: to what extent are we happy in our daily activities?
  • Social wellbeing: what is the quality of the relationships we have with our loved ones?
  • Physical wellbeing: do we have enough energy and good health to carry out our daily tasks?
  • Community wellbeing: what is our level of commitment and integration in our community (neighbourhood, city, social network…)?

What are the benefits to focus on wellbeing?

The employees’ wellbeing is contagious and they pass it on, whether it is to their colleagues or customers. Thus a growing number of companies perceive it as a source of competitiveness.

Indeed, avoiding stress and discomfort can reduce health care costs beard by the company, whether they are direct or indirect. In addition, the companies that focus on the wellbeing of their employees and that are able to communicate about this subject, are more likely to attract and retain the most talented employees.

Developing wellbeing

Any organisation has the means to act, directly or indirectly, on the five categories of wellbeing.

In regards to the work environment, you will find useful tips in the report “Wellbeing and efficiency at work” (“Bien-être et efficacité au travail”) written by Henri Lachmann, Christian Larose and Muriel Penicaud. This document was commissioned by the French Prime Minister and was published in February 2010.

A pragmatic report, mainly based on common sense, which revolves around “10 proposals to improve the psychological health at work”:
1 The involvement of the executive management and board of directors is required.
The performance evaluation must integrate the human factor, and therefore the health of the employees.

2 The health of the employees is the managers first concern, you cannot outsource it.
The local managers are the primary health professionals.

3 Giving employees the means to fulfil themselves at work.
Restore chat rooms and autonomy spaces in the work place.

4 Involve the social partners when determining the health conditions.
Social dialog is a priority, within the company and outside of it.

5 Measure influences behaviours.
Measuring the health and safety conditions at work is one condition for the development of wellbeing in companies.

6 Prepare and train managers to their management role.
Assert and make the manager’s responsibility real towards the teams and men.

7 Do not reduce the collective work to just a number of people working together.
Emphasize the collective performance to make work organisations more motivating and effective.

8 Anticipate and take into account the human impact changes can cause.
In any reorganisation or restructuring projects you must measure the impact and the human feasibility brought by the change.

9 Health at work does not limit itself to the boundaries of the company.
The company has a human impact on its environment, in particular on its suppliers.

10 Do not leave an employee alone with his or her problems.
Support the employees going through a hard time.

And in your case, what do you do for the wellbeing of all those around you?

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