Abstracts: July 20th, 2009

Stress management has become a key activity for managers as the effect of the recession has an increasing effect in the workplace. New guidance, jointly funded by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the Health and Safety Executive and Investors in People, has been published to identify the management behaviours that will help organisations reduce stress at work.

The guidance on stress management draws on in-depth research involving interviews and surveys with hundreds of managers and employees, as well as an evaluation of manager training in stress management competencies across 17 organisations. It sets out the key management behaviours for better management of stress at work.

The behaviours to reduce the effect of stress are grouped under four competency headings: managing and communicating existing and future work; reasoning/managing difficult situations; managing the individual within the team; and managing emotions and having integrity.

With ill-health relating to stress at work doubling between1990 and 2007, stress is now the second biggest cause of employee absence behind musculoskeletal conditions. This picture is likely to get worse as a result of the recession with the World Health Organisation predicting soaring levels of stress and other mental health problems in the next few years. A CIPD survey of 3,000 employees published last month shows that about half have seen an increase in stress at work as a result of the downturn.

Long-term exposure to stress is linked to conditions such as anxiety and depression, as well as physical conditions such as heart disease, back pain and headaches.

The guidance is designed to help organisations ensure that line managers help to support employee health and resilience as well as meet their obligations under health and safety law to identify and manage work-related stress.