The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 in New Zealand requires businesses to take all steps possible to ensure the safety of employees.
Business owners and managers may be tempted to ignore this law in all but the most obvious hazards that could threaten a workplace. Ignorance is no excuse in the law, so knowing about the possible dangers that employees face through mental stress is essential for all those who manage people.
Businesses that follow best practice in dealing with stress in the workplace and the distress that poorly managed emotions can cause, not only safeguard themselves against possible legal action but more importantly, they create a healthy working environment that leads to improved staff morale, greater productivity and business success.
There are four particular areas that are worthy of consideration.
- Legal considerations
We offer suggestions for dealing with the stress in the workplace that will reduce the risk of harm to employees. An added benefit of these practices will be clearer and more positive communication with customers and within teams. Managers can benefit greatly from improving their communication skills especially when they are under stress themselves.
- Workplace bullying
One of the most frequent causes of stress in workplaces is workplace bullying. While there are real and persistent bullies in the workplace there are not as many as you might think from the way the word is used. Often when people are under stress they don’t communicate well, they sound aggressive and gruff and this behaviour is often labelled as bullying. Once the label is applied, it is difficult not to interpret any kind of forceful communication as bullying. Teaching skills to hold challenging conversations will reduce accusations of bullying and improve communication generally.
- Stress generated by angry and upset clients or colleagues.
Difficult interpersonal situations are stressful. Understanding what happens to the body and the mind in these stressful situations can be a useful way to help de-stress and maintain good healthy physical and emotional well-being. Remaining calm and engaging with an upset person improves customer experience, especially when their problems are sorted well.
- Personal problems that people bring to work.
Personal problems don’t just stop at the door when the person arrives at work. What happens outside of work affects not only the individual but also colleagues when these problems are talked about at work. Staff who learn to actively listen and set clear boundaries with their workmates are less likely to be caught up in the whirlwind of emotions. They can restrict the time wasted by colleagues’ personal dramas overflowing into the workplace. An effective listener can do a lot in a short time to relieve the distress of and upset colleague so they can return to the work they are employed to do.