Stress is a big thing: It is a personal tragedy for the individual concerned and it cost a lot for the organizations as well as the society. Companies – and HR – must therefore be more proactive when it comes to combating workplace stress.
If you ask people in Denmark if they feel stressed 41% will say that they feel stressed “often” or “occasionally”. That is a big number. When you add that to the fact that 25% of all sick leave is directly linked to stress-related illnesses then this is serious. The other interesting thing about that number is that it is rising. In 1987 the number of Danes reporting stress was 35%.
A good stress policy should include a number of things. It should include a clear definition of what stress is, list a comprehensive range of symptoms which comes from stress (remember that stress is a condition – not an illness), provide stress management tools, outline roles and responsibilities of managers, colleagues, the employee and the company and most importantly provide exact steps which a person should take if he or she feels symptoms of stress.
A well-written policy is however only useful if it is actually taken seriously by the company, managers and the employees themselves. Otherwise it is just another useless HR-policy. There must be an openness to deal with stress at the workplace and a language to speak freely about problems and issues with managers and HR. This bit requires a real concentrated effort from top management and all the way down. I have seen it work, and where it does, it makes a big difference to job-satisfaction, employee turnover and productivity.
Stress is important. My advice is to treat it seriously.