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Good Practice Guide

Leading to prevent and reduce stress

Work-related stress is a leading cause of both mental ill health and workers’ compensation claims related to mental illness.

Stress is a normal response to the demands of work. It can be beneficial in short bursts, helping people to stay alert and perform at their best. However, prolonged or excessive job stress can be damaging to mental health. Stress can contribute to the development of anxiety and/or depression, and may cause an existing condition to worsen. As well as affecting relationships and life outside work, stress can increase risk of injury, fatigue and burnout1.

According to Safework Australia, the top three causes of work-related stress are2:

  • work pressure;
  • work-related harassment and/or bullying; and
  • exposure to workplace or occupational violence.

Further reading

The Australian Psychological Society has some further reading on stress both in and out of work on its website.

Managing teams and work-related stress

There are both organisational and individual factors that can impact work related stress, all included in the ‘mitigate’ section of this framework. In the Thrive at Work Framework, the organisational factors that can impact upon work-related stress include those in the ‘reduce job demands’ and ‘increase job resources’ and ‘increase resilience & coping’ sections.

It is essential that leaders have an understanding of the organisational factors that affect levels of work-related stress, and ensure they are setting their teams up for success by preventing and reducing work-related stress. Leaders also need to recognise the signs of work-related stress in their teams.

Further reading

Heads Up’s website contains a tip sheet on understanding and managing stress, developed by the Australian Psychological Society.

Further reading

Deakin University have developed a range of reading material and resources on work-related stress, including the role of managers and supervisors –¬† a management compentency framework for workplace stress, a guide on the role of managers in dealing with workplace stress, and a guide for helping employees with mental illness caused by stress.

Resource

The UK Health and Safety Executive has developed a checklist of managerial behaviours relating to stress management. This tool can be used by people leaders as a self report assessment of the factors known to prevent and reduce stress in teams.

Stress management for individuals

The Thrive at Work Framework also includes Increase Resilience and Coping as an individual level strategy for managing stress. Strategies within the Increase Resilience and Coping building block assist employees in improving their ability to cope with, adapt to, and recover from stress at work, in situations in which the primary cause of the stress cannot be removed.

Resource

Read more about selecting resilience and coping interventions at the individual level.

References

  1. Work Safe Victoria. Work Related Stress : Safety Basics. Retrieved from https://www.headsup.org.au/healthy-workplaces/workplace-stressors
  2. Beyond Blue (Heads Up). Workplace Stressors. Retrieved from https://www.headsup.org.au/healthy-workplaces/workplace-stressors