Is Your Workplace Suffering from Contagious Stress?

Written by Graham Yemm

We wonder how many of you might recognise this scenario? Although it happened with a male manager, it could apply to men or women. The manager we worked with had been promoted to a more senior role and was experiencing demands from all sides. He became increasingly tired, was working long hours and spending less time with his family. His overall energy dropped, anxiety levels increased, sleep was disrupted and concentration and focus diminished. He no longer took time to exercise, found himself snatching meals of dubious quality and kept himself going with constant fixes of coffee and Red Bull. Apart fromrepparttar impact on him – what do you think wererepparttar 142526 effects on his family andrepparttar 142527 people who worked for and with him?

Imagine what it was like working for him. How supportive was he as a manager? How clear was his direction and communication? Was he just seeingrepparttar 142528 errors and problems? Were his team, and colleagues, starting to feel stressed because of his behaviours?

What about someone working in a customer facing role, who has had trouble getting to work, pressures at home, a sudden increase of customer complaints and problems? The pressure gets to them and they start to become irritable with colleagues – and then with customers. What will that do torepparttar 142529 colleagues andrepparttar 142530 business? The colleagues may be understanding for a while, butrepparttar 142531 longer it goes on,repparttar 142532 risk is that they catchrepparttar 142533 disease! Communication and team support disappear and morale goes down. Suppose it gets worse and our person feels they cannot face it and so take some time off. Now who bearsrepparttar 142534 brunt of this? Oh, and what happens withrepparttar 142535 customers? What would it be like to visit this workplace? Imagine what you would see, hear and feel.

Stress rarely happens in isolation or to one individual. (Although it may feel that way!) When someone begins to get stressed there will be a ripple effect spreading out from them. Those closest feelrepparttar 142536 effect first! Whether it isrepparttar 142537 person atrepparttar 142538 top who cascadesrepparttar 142539 problems down and throughrepparttar 142540 organisation, a line-manager struggling to cope with their job (especially when promoted into it) or a person with loads of pressures in their non-work life – they are contagious!!! The spread will be insidious if nothing is done about it. It becomes a vicious spiral and creates more work for those still there to do it.

Many of you reading this are aware that you have pressures on you from all sides, possibly from your family, your friends, colleagues, your own teams and direct reports – and yourself! Juggling your time and attention across these is a difficult challenge! What makes these pressures worse can be your own expectations of yourself and what you believe you should be doing. This could be concerned with demonstrating how capable and professional you are in your role. It could be because you feel you should be giving your family or friends more of your time and attention.

A consequence of this could be that you start to feelrepparttar 142541 pressure mounting and begin to react to things differently. Maybe you become less patient with some colleagues,repparttar 142542 department who missrepparttar 142543 deadline,repparttar 142544 people in your team who do not communicate inrepparttar 142545 right way for you. If you are not careful you may berepparttar 142546 originator ofrepparttar 142547 “virus” and before long it is spreading to those you interact with and they start to act in a stressed way!

Why does it matter? Stress is likely to lead to problems withinrepparttar 142548 business. These will effectrepparttar 142549 bottom-line, directly or indirectly. The most obvious impact can be loss of business, maybe through poor service, or poor quality. Your costs certainly rise, whether because of lower productivity or having to correct or rework mistakes. Then there isrepparttar 142550 “human cost” of low morale, probably leading to absences (eventually long-term) – and possibly leaving. This results in increasing staff turnover, with allrepparttar 142551 ensuing costs and pitfalls.

The Cost of Stress – the Need to Monitor and Manage the Risks!

Written by Graham Yemm

How much attention is paid to one ofrepparttar biggest underlying risk factors within an organisation –repparttar 142525 effects of stress? Not only are there a lot of potential risks arising fromrepparttar 142526 spread of stress within an organisation, it costs them a great deal of money!!

Let us start with looking at some hard-nosed numbers (based onrepparttar 142527 UK.).

  • The CBI estimate that there is a cost of £4bn per annum to industry as a direct result of stress related absence.
  • This figure can rise to over £7bn when you considerrepparttar 142528 loss of productivity!
  • A recent survey byrepparttar 142529 HSE indicated over 550,000 cases of absence as a result of stress, depression and anxiety.
  • A further 66,000 were absent with heart problems as a result of stress.
  • There was a loss of nearly 13m working days in total.
  • The average absence was 28.5 days for stress-related issues.
  • 1 in 5 believe that their job is extremely or very stressful – that is 5 million people!
  • Up to 40% of absence is related to stress.
  • When stressed, performance can be reduced by up to 70%
  • The CIPD estimate that stress costs industry £522 per employee.
Had enough of this? Moving on to think aboutrepparttar 142530 risk of unmanaged stress to organisations we can start by looking atrepparttar 142531 “knock-on” risks.

Where an organisation is suffering from stress problems there will be a number of probable consequences, all with ensuing costs torepparttar 142532 business. Also, what other risks might they contribute to?

  1. Ifrepparttar 142533 atmosphere is getting worse there will be an increase in staff turnover. The costs of this are often overlooked or hidden behind some spurious justification. What isrepparttar 142534 direct cost of recruiting replacements? Oh, andrepparttar 142535 indirect costs? What isrepparttar 142536 cost ofrepparttar 142537 loss ofrepparttar 142538 experience and expertise? Staff turnover disrupts business in many ways and reduces profitability. Simultaneously, costs will increase too!
  2. When individuals are suffering from stress their work performance is likely to deteriorate. The quality of decision making will go down, possibly with faulty judgements being made. What isrepparttar 142539 risk torepparttar 142540 organisation of this? It is probable thatrepparttar 142541 rate of casual errors will increase too – with what consequences?
  3. The relations between people will be effected, forrepparttar 142542 worse! As communication, support or teamworking deteriorate then people will not enjoy coming to work and levels of commitment are likely to reduce. This will probably mean that customer service gets worse too – again, with what consequences? (This will also apply to internal customers as well as external.)
  4. As people become less motivated, and even demotivated, their productivity goes down andrepparttar 142543 impact of that is………?
When we take into accountrepparttar 142544 figures and also these probable knock-on effects, it makes sense to think about managingrepparttar 142545 organisation in a way which will reducerepparttar 142546 potential impact of stress. Indeed, that is a key part of one ofrepparttar 142547 HSE initiatives andrepparttar 142548 introduction of their “Management Standards for Stress.” Although these are not compulsory in themselves, there is legislation around it! There isrepparttar 142549 duty of care and responsibility attached to managers as part ofrepparttar 142550 Health and Safety legislation. This means undertaking risk assessments, creating a positive environment and managing work activity to reduce stress and pressure at work.

Before going further into these, let us consider what is meant by this word, “stress”. The HSE define it as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them.” A simpler option is to think of it as “the internalisation of pressure – where it exceeds your ability to cope.” When we hear people say things such as “We all need some degree of stress”, what is really being said is that we need some level of pressure to galvanise us to action. These pressures can come from all sorts of sources in a work and personal lives – and within ourselves too.

The figure below, “The Pressure Curve” shows what we mean by this. Ifrepparttar 142551 amount of pressure is not high enough, we do not feelrepparttar 142552 need to respond and so performance is likely to be down. (Wonderfully called “rust out” in certain circles.) Have you ever gone into a shop, restaurant or somewhere on a very quiet day? What wasrepparttar 142553 response and service like? This end ofrepparttar 142554 scale can lead to problems fromrepparttar 142555 boredom level!

Getrepparttar 142556 pressure “right” and we are triggered to respond inrepparttar 142557 most effective way – and will operate at our “optimal performance” level. Moving along towardsrepparttar 142558 end,repparttar 142559 pressure levels increase and when this is too muchrepparttar 142560 response is what most people think of asrepparttar 142561 classic stress problem, “burn out”

This rarely just “happens” suddenly. The pressures build up,repparttar 142562 symptoms will become more and more obvious,repparttar 142563 physiological and behavioural clues will be more noticeable. Ifrepparttar 142564 situation does not change, andrepparttar 142565 pressure become more manageable,repparttar 142566 person who is at this end will probably start to become ill asrepparttar 142567 body sends out signals to say it needs to protect itself against this burnout.

The challenge facing managers with this concept is to identify what isrepparttar 142568 “optimal” amount of pressure for each person in their team. We each interpret pressures in different ways. What one of us may shrug off, another will think of as a crisis and vice versa. Add to this, we all have various pressures influencing us which are external to our work. These can range from personal relationships to financial, environmental to practical such as travelling. Then there isrepparttar 142569 human capacity to create pressure on ourselves through having unreasonable expectations or by finding things to worry about over which we have no control! How well do managers know their team members to assess their personal “negative” and “positive” pressures?

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