Workplace stress is defined as work that has a negative effect on physical or mental well being (Bratton and Gold, 2007). The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) define stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them”. Alternatively, the feeling that work demands exceed the individual’s belief in his or her capacity to cope (Edwards, 1992). Stress can reduce an employee’s well being and have adverse effects on their health and is one of the most important reasons behind long-term sickness absence from work (CIPD, 2012).
Stress can manifest in different ways depending on the individual, from changes in behaviour such as aggression, to physiological symptoms such as headaches.
Whilst workplace stress has an obvious negative impact on the individual, it also has a negative effect on the organisation and the economy. The costs of stress can be enormous, due to lost time, reduced production, and accidents (Ganster and Schaubroeck, 1991). According to CIPD research, stress related absence costs the organisation £600 per year, per employee. The HSE estimate that 10.4 million working days were lost in 2011/2012 as a result of work-related stress, depression and anxiety. Although these figures are substantial, it is important to highlight that stress may not be measured in the same way in organisations or indeed at all. Briner (1999) urged caution in the interpretation of any findings of cost and effect of stress on the organisation and questioned whether the problem is as bad as some people claim it is.
Not only does an organisation have to think about the cost related to stress and productivity, but it also needs to be aware of the risk of litigation should it not assess the risk of stress and actively seek to manage it. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) employers have a duty of care to employees. To deal with the issue and manage or reduce stress, the...