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Workplace Stress: Getting Started

This article accompanies Taking the Stress Out of Work

Thursday, September 16, 2010
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Human resource leaders and risk managers are not psychologists. For those who feel intimidated by the complicated psychological issues that the issue of workplace stress appears to raise, there are a number of resources available online that can help.

* The Management Standards for work-related stress of the United Kingdom's Health and Safety Executive is a good place to begin:

The Management Standards define the characteristics or culture of an organization where the risks from work-related stress are being effectively managed and controlled. The standards cover six key areas of work design that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health and well-being, lower productivity and increased sickness absence.

These aspects affect the amount of stress created on the job:

* Demands: This includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment.

* Control: How much say the person has in the way they do their work.

* Support: This includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organization, line management and colleagues.

* Relationships: This includes promoting positive working relationships to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behavior.

* Role: Whether people understand their role within the organization and whether the organization ensures that they do not have conflicting roles.

* Change: How organizational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organization.

* The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has a page on work organization and stress-related disorders.

NIOSH, through the National Occupational Research Agenda has also published a useful document entitled, The Changing Organization of Work and the Safety and Health of Working People. This document explains the status of current research on the topic and lays out a course for the future.

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* The home page for the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Worksite Award has information on how award winners are addressing workplace stress.

* The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has some "Advice for Employers," filled with useful information on how to reduce workplace stress.

The agency also recently published Expert Forecast on Emerging Psychosocial Risks Related to Occupational Safety and Health, which identifies and analyzes the top 10 emerging psychosocial risks based on a survey of experts and a literature review. These risks are related to five main topics:

* Job insecurity and new forms of contracts;

* The aging workforce;

* Work intensification;

* High emotional demands at work; and

* Poor work/life balance.

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