'Tis the season for stress to strike

15th December 2008
With worries over the Christmas credit crunch, job security and the late shopping rush during the Festive season, employers are being warned to keep an eye out for seasonal stress in their staff.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), Europe’s largest professional health and safety body, has highlighted that those working in shops, pubs and restaurants are likely to find themselves under greater pressure than normal, with many enticing people with cut price offers in a desperate bid to boost sales figures.

Nattasha Freeman, IOSH’s president, said: “The last few weeks before Christmas are traditionally busy times as people go out to buy last minute presents. This rush places extra demands on employees who are already likely to be working at capacity, so employers need to watch out for signs that their employees are unable to cope.

“This extra pressure, coupled with fears over their personal finances and, in some cases, job security, could leave some people more susceptible to excessive pressure and the illnesses that can result from this. Employers should remember that personal stress factors can also impact on performance at work and this increases the potential for accidents.”

She added: “All employers need to remember that they have a duty to ensure the health and safety of their staff.”

In the UK, recent statistics indicate that work-related stress accounts for over a third of all new incidences of ill health, with each case leading to an average of 30.6 working days lost, and in 2007/8, 13.5 million working days were lost to stress, depression and anxiety; it also has a damaging effect on employee commitment, performance and productivity.

Nattasha continued: “To help relieve the situation, employers should look what minor adjustments they can make. These could include ensuring staff take proper breaks and have someone they can talk to. It might also mean offering a bit of flexibility in their working hours, particularly for those with parental responsibilities who need to arrange childcare.

“Remember to pay particular attention to any temporary workers you employ. Ensure they are properly supervised and receive support from more experienced members of staff.”
There are many signs of stress, but some common signs and symptoms include:

increased susceptibility to colds and other infections
tiredness and sleep difficulties
back and neckache
digestive problems
wanting to cry
short temperedness
eating when you’re not hungry
smoking and drinking excessively, and
loss of motivation and commitment.

IOSH recently produced a free of charge Occupational Health Toolkit (available at www.ohtoolkit.com), which provides advice and training material on tackling stress.

Source: Onrec.com