A recent European survey on working conditions, conducted by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, has found that 22 per cent of workers in Ireland have experienced stress at work ‘always’ or ‘most of the time’.
The proportion that ‘always’ experienced stress was the 3rd highest in the EU15 and 10th highest among the 34 countries surveyed. Work-related stress is stress caused or made worse by work. It refers to situations where employees perceive their work in such a way that they have serious and on-going difficulty coping with day-to-day demands.
A 2016 study by the ESRI noted that stress, anxiety and depression are the second highest causes of work-related illness in Ireland and are associated with the longest absence from work.
The Health and Safety Authority, in conjunction with the State Claims Agency, developed the ‘Work Positive’ online tool. Available at WorkPositive.ie, it helps employers to implement a structured and collaborative approach to managing work-related stress. With employees at the heart of the process, the free tool provides clear guidance for employers to design and implement focused action plans and interventions.
According to Patricia Murray, HSA’s organisational psychologist, “Employees behave differently to their ‘normal’ behaviour when under high levels of stress. They can be angrier, more confrontational, show less time for others and impose an urgency on situations which is unrealistic and tense for those around them.
“Or they can withdraw and become evasive or prone to upset and over time easily overcome by even minor challenges. This type of behaviour is clearly unproductive for the individual and difficult for their colleagues to deal with, but it’s also bad for business.
“Employers need to be alert for the signs of work-related stress in their organisations. They have a duty of care to provide a safe and healthy workplace and this duty extends to mental as well as physical safety and health.
“The benefits of doing so not only extend to employees themselves but also to the business in the form of reduced absenteeism and increased employee engagement, performance and productivity.”