'To create a safe and healthy work environment, it is first of all necessary to determine what is actually happening in the work environment; what levels of stress (physiological as well as psychological) your employees are experiencing while performing their tasks,' says a spokesperson for the CSIR.
Occupational stress affects employees' health and safety in 2 ways:
• Direct effects on the employee's behaviour.
Indirect effects mediated by employee health, employee well-being, and employee attitudes to their job and to health and safety matters.
Physical strain and psychological stress play important roles in employees' safety, behaviour and ability to work without harming his/her health.
'Employees will often resist telling their employer that they feel unable to cope or that they are being bullied at work. But employers should be on the lookout for stress symptoms in staff. In some circumstances, employers are under a duty to notice stress, without being told of it by the employee affected,'states www.teachingexpertise.com.
How to stress audit your employees
'Carrying out a stress audit is one of the best ways to find out whether stress is a problem in your workplace. It can also help you to assess the risks of stress that people in your business may face as part of your health and safety risk assessment,' says Marilyn Schulman, a psychologist specialising in the field of trauma and stress.
'A stress audit involves talking informally to [employees] – either individually or in groups – to find out if they have any concerns. Let employees know why you are carrying out the exercise and what you're trying to achieve – i.e. that you hope to prevent future problems or cure any existing ones,' explains Schulman.
Involve health and safety representatives in all aspects of the stress audit and respect employee confidentiality
If you have health and safety representatives, involve them in your plans and decision-making. Always respect the confidentiality of employees.
One simple way to assess employee stress
Ask employees to list the three best and worst things about their job and whether any of these put them under excessive stress.
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