With millions of working days lost in the UK each year, stress costs British businesses billions annually. To make matters worse, a landmark court case recently ruled that employers can be held liable for the effects of workplace stress on employees' health.
Experts believe that besides leading to falling productivity rates, stress also greatly increases the risk of personal injury.
Two of the principal causes of stress are bullying by managers and people being put in jobs they are not suited to. Businesses can begin to tackle the problem by introducing simple personality assessments, job rotation, and regular management reviews.
Taking a broader view, a number of causal factors can be identified:
- A general increase in the pace and complexity of working life brought about by the rapid growth in information technology
- The erosion of personal space and time resulting from developments in communications technology
- Increased workloads resulting from staff cutbacks, etc
- Increasingly informed and demanding customers and clients
- Lack of job security
- The stresses involved in commuting to and from work, travelling on the job etc.
Some of these factors are out of the hands of business owners, but others can be addressed - especially when it comes to IT-induced stress.
Research has shown that many people working with computers feel frustrated or stressed because of IT problems. The majority of computer users have seen colleagues hurling abuse at their PCs, and admit to swearing at their own computers!
The results of this new menace of 'computer rage' are not only higher stress levels, but also measurable costs to the business - deadlines are missed, contracts are lost, and customers angered. Clearly this is an area where the business owner is in a position to improve matters.