Stress 4 Staff

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Stress can affect us in different ways and at different times during our lives and is often the result of a combination of factors in our personal and working lives. It is important that we learn to recognise stress and understand what to do to reduce it in order to minimise the risk of suffering stress-related ill health.

The effects of stress

These are many and varied. Individuals may suffer physical, emotional and psychological symptoms and this can result in changes to normal behaviour. Common physical symptoms include headaches, insomnia, digestive problems and palpitations. Psychological and emotional symptoms can be anxiety, depression, anger, negativity and loss of confidence.

The impact on behaviour can result in heightened emotional reactions, loss of temper, loss of concentration, being more distracted and making more errors. It is common to try to compensate with negative coping strategies; increased alcohol intake, smoking more, overeating or not eating but these types of behaviours can make things worse.

Tackling personal stress is an individual’s responsibility; however employers have a responsibility to help reduce any stress which may arise in their employees as a result of their work.

The key steps to managing stress are:

  • Identify the causes of stress and where possible take action to reduce it.
  • Seek out support and help.
  • Take steps to look after yourself.


Tackling stress

We sometimes have very little control over stressful life events such as illness, bereavement, moving home or job, financial difficulties or relationship problems. It can be difficult to disentangle work and non-work problems and they are likely to have a cumulative effect. Talking it over with someone is important.

Sources of support such as friends and relatives can be invaluable but when health is affected it is important to consult a General Practitioner or other health professional. Depending on the circumstances they can help you consider what steps need to be taken and who else it would be appropriate to involve.

Irrespective of the source of your stress, you should speak to your manager or Human Resources Department at work. They may be able to support you in some way or take some pressures off you in work while you resolve the stress in your personal life. It is important however to recognise your own responsibility to take action at a personal level.

Appropriate Support

When stress is affecting your health you should consult your General Practitioner so a proper assessment of your health can be made and advice on appropriate treatment and support given.

This may result in referral to counselling services or specialist agencies appropriate to your problem e.g. debt advice. They may also advise you to seek support from the Occupational Health and Staff Counselling and Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).

Dignity and Respect Advisers

The University has a number of designated advisers who can be contacted by members of staff.


Personal development

Try to consider if there are elements of your own personality that make you more vulnerable to stress.

  • Could you be more organised?
  • Do you find it difficult to say no?
  • Always rushing?
  • Do you find it difficult controlling your anger?
  • Would having a certain skill set make work easier?

There are a number of learning opportunities available through a variety of sources, some are available through the Organisational and Staff Development Unit (OSDU) and can help with relevant personal development and training.

Review life style

Key factors to consider are a healthy diet, finding time to relax and take regular exercise, getting the work-life balance right, spending time with people or doing the things that are rewarding.

Avoid coping mechanisms that make things worse and adopt strategies that help buffer you from the source of your stress like relaxation techniques and positive thinking.

The Centre for Sport and Recreation offers advice on healthy lifestyles and can develop individual fitness programmes.

Work related stress

The modern workplace is fast paced, dynamic and a highly stimulating environment which brings a large number of benefits and opportunities to those who work within it. The ever changing demands of the working world can increase levels of stress, especially for those who are consistently working under pressure.

While pressure has its positive side in raising performance, if such pressure becomes excessive it can lead to stress which has negative consequences.

Many people still get confused about pressure and stress but there is a great deal of difference between the two. We all experience pressure on a daily basis, it motivates us and enables us to perform our best.

However, when we experience too much pressure without an opportunity to recover, we can feel as though everything becomes too much to cope with and stress is the result. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) define stress as “An adverse reaction a person has to excessive pressures or other types of demands placed upon them.” Given an excess of pressure, stress can happen to anyone and should not be seen as a weakness.

To manage stress effectively The University of Strathclyde follow guidance developed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

This Management Standards approach is designed to:

  • help simplify risk assessments for stress
  • encourage employees and their representatives to work in partnership with managers and support services to address work-related stress
  • provide a benchmark which the organisation can gauge their performance in tackling the key causes of stress

Further advice is available from Safety, Health and Wellbeing 

Managers play a key role and have access to training, advice and help to improve understanding of stress and how best to support staff. They will work with employees, and the appropriate support services at the University to identify issues at source and agree realistic and workable ways to tackle stress.