Recent research reveals that 70% of UK adults have experienced stress in the workplace. Nearly half of those indicate that their stress levels have increased over the last twelve months. The cost to Britain's economy was estimated at £12 billion over two years ago (http://www.hse.gov.uk/press/2006/e06009.htm). Companies clearly have a problem on their hands and unless they implement practices, policies and procedures to reduce stress, it will impact on their performance and ultimately their long-term success.
When asked what situations workers find stressful, the top answer was travel to work, followed by work itself, poor management practices and balancing home and work. Add to that the stressors we all may encounter outside work (illness, divorce, bereavement, and financial problems) and you have a potential time bomb threatening to explode at any moment.
So what can be done? The role of a stress manager is twofold. First, s/he identifies specific stressors within the workplace. A stress audit is carried out in order to detect areas of concern and levels of absenteeism. The audit will also indicate the levels of stress experienced within the workplace in question and these figures can be compared to current national average. Causes of stress within the workplace may be a combination of poor management, too many demands on staff, lack of control and poor working relationships. All these need to be ad-dressed. The consequences of a stressful environment are poor physical and mental health, resulting in a high degree of absenteeism, a reduction in staff moral, and a rapid turnover of staff.
The next duty of the stress manager is to implement a stress management training programme, often coupled with an employee assistance scheme. An EAS can provide a range of services, such as counselling, mentoring, management training and legal advice. An EAS is usually confidential and low cost and will often reduce stress and absenteeism within a few months.
Simply, stress occurs when the number of problems (stressors) is greater than the coping abilities we possess. Individuals react to life events in different ways. Some of us can seemingly cope with stress easier than others. Stress is not a sign of weakness; it is something that we all experience at some time in our lives. Although we all need a certain amount of pressure in our lives, chronic, long-term stress can make us physically and mentally ill.
Once a stress manager has identified the causes of stress in an individual, s/he can teach him strategies to deal with it. We cannot remove all stress from our lives, but we can begin to take control and alter our perception of it. The stress reaction, or 'fight or flight' response is simply the bodies' way of dealing with a perceived or real threat. If this response is prolonged, it can permanently damage health.
Once an individual understands what stress is, and what his particular responses are (headache, panic, backache, insomnia, irritability etc.) he can begin to alleviate them.
As stress managers, we first of all identify and remove maladaptive coping strategies. The next task is to teach relaxation, using a combination of hypnosis, Neuro linguistic programming, E.M.D.R, and NLP. These therapies can be combined with massage, exercise, and nutritional advice.
Most cases of stress, whether caused by work or personal issues, or a combination of both, will be resolved after a course of stress management.
Any stressor (real or imagined) sends a signal to the hypothalamus, which stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. The short-term changes in our body help us to perform effectively. For instance, in order that the muscles may work adequately, the liver is triggered to release sugar, cholesterol and fatty acids into the blood stream The heart pumps faster in order to get the oxygenated blood to where it is most needed. The blood pressure rises.
Think what happens to you when confronted with a stressful situation. Short-term symptoms may include sweaty palms, palpitations, and rapid breathing.
However, the adrenaline, which is produced by your body to deal with stress, can produce long-term negative effects, affecting digestion, reproduction and the immune system.
The important questions to ask yourself are:
1. Is my bodies' response understandable, given the situation?
2. Am I suffering the affects of long-term (chronic) stress?
3. Have I methods available to me that will help reduce the ill effects of stress?
Our corporate stress management programme offers all members of a company, irrespective of status, a highly individualised service, which totally respects the confidentiality of every person taking up stress management sessions. That is to say, while the company provides the benefit of this service to its employees, no personal information will be passed from any employee back to the company. This ensures a higher take-up rate without the fear of being personally monitored in any way. In the long run this benefits the company as a whole since a better take-up rate means more effective staff performance. The package allows up to 6 sessions per year for every staff member, however staff can chose to elect a close member of family to take up some or all of their sessions since stress endured by a relative may also impinge on that employee. Any additional sessions required, over and above those provided by the programme, will be paid for by the relevant person concerned, at an average reduction of 15% on normal fees charged. A wide range of personal concerns can be addressed, all of which may interfere with work performance. These include relationship problems, depression, phobias, trauma, anxiety, health matters, personal concerns, motivation and performance enhancement. Some of the techniques used are: Health education and health promotion Teaching self-relaxation and stress reduction Non-evaluative analytical discussion and processes Established stress management and personal development techniques Cognitive Therapy. We also hold qualifications in Critical Incident Debriefing and Post Traumatic Stress Intervention, Change Management and Leadership and Communication Skills. The prospective benefits of our Corporate Stress Management Programme offer improved staff morale resulting from perceived attention to staff welfare, reduced absenteeism and staff turnover, rehabilitation rather than punishment, improved productivity and potential protection against compensation claims.
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