By Emma Hughes, HR Manager at Wolfestone The 28th April marks World Day for Safety and Health at Work, which serves as a good reminder for all businesses to review their health and safety policies and procedures.

Stress is biggest risk factor in work

Working in an office based environment we tend to instruct and advise on the usual risks, such as temperature, lighting levels, workstation design and DSE equipment. In reality stress has become one of the biggest risk factors in the office based environment, with many employees expected to work longer hours and take on bigger workloads. The problem is sometimes amplified for business owners. They do not have the luxury of sick leave as they still have to run the business. A visit to your doctor may result with a sick note for 2 weeks or a prescription for tablets to reduce stress. To the self-employed or small business owner these are of little value when you consider the work will still be waiting for them after the two weeks is up. Stress levels can be a huge problem for organisations and this month the Mail online reported a record high of 40 million days lost to work-related injuries and ill health last year in the UK. 13.4 million of these were attributed to stress, anxiety or depression. ACAS reports that work-related stress costs society about £3.7 billion every year (2005/6 prices). TUC general secretary John Monks is urging employers to take action to combat stress in the workplace and is calling for resources from the government to help. Workplace Stress Over the past 18 months Nigel T Packer, has been sitting on the board of a support program called Wellbeing Through Work, run by Abertawe Bro Morganwg Health Trust and Remploy. The scheme is supported by The Welsh Government and European funding. Nigel feels:
"A little stress in work can be good, we are more creative, we get greater satisfaction when completing a project, especially if it brought an element of stress and danger by making us work outside our comfort zone"
What happens though, when stress tips over into distress? This can be as a result of long hours, tiredness, a recurring muscular skeletal injury or a personal family issue such as a bereavement. Individually you may be able to deal with each challenge, however, combined with all the rigours of the workplace it can lead to distraction, depression and lost days in the office due to ill health.

Tackle stress at an early stage

Recognising distress in ourselves and in those who work with us at an early stage is important. But what can we do to minimise stress?
  • Eat healthy well balanced meals
  • Exercise regularly
  • Manage your time and plan for relaxing activities such as reading or gardening
  • Get enough rest and sleep
  • Build a good support network of colleagues, friends and family
And more schemes like the Wellbeing Through Work program should be set up across the world. The scheme has helped hundreds of small business owners, self-employed and employees through a series of options including cognitive behavioural therapies and discussion. Nigel adds: It is a shame that this service is only available in the Swansea, Neath, Port Talbot and Bridgend areas of Wales, and I feel we would benefit from more schemes like this around the country. What do you think we can do to reduce stress at work? Do you have any tips for stress reduction?

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