Stress can be defined as "The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them."
These excessive pressures can come from either one main or many differing sources. When a person feels that they cannot cope with the pressures, and there is a resulting adverse impact on their performance or ability to cope, then it can be said that stress occurs. Prolonged or repeated periods of such pressure can lead to stress related illnesses such as depression or anxiety.
Controlling pressure and preventing stress related illnesses in the workplace is a two way process, requiring cooperation between managers and employees, as neither is likely to be able to resolve a situation on their own. However, by working together and, where necessary with the support of Human Resources, the optimum resolutions can be found. See also "Guidance on how to deal with instances of stress".
The University has a range of policies, procedures and guidance that are designed to tackle various issues that can have an impact on stress and work related stressors:
- The University Employee Assistance Programme is available for anyone struggling with pressure or stress related illnesses, whether work related or not.
- Management of Stress and Work-related Stressors, which defines how work related stress is managed and what actions can be taken to prevent stress at work, and the Stress Management Review Questionnaire can be used by an individual and their line manager/HR Adviser when they are struggling with a stress related matter or when they return to work after a stress-related absence. There is also guidance of how to complete the Stress Management Review Questionnaire.
- A risk assessment of potential stress factors within a department (i.e. factors not specific to an individual) should be carried out by departmental managers using the Stress Risk Assessment Form, which is based on the HSE's Stress Management Standards.
- Annual Review: Every member of staff is entitled to an Annual Review with their line manager. This provides an opportunity to discuss achievements, career aspirations, objectives for the coming year and development needs.
- Dignity at Work and Study: This procedure is for staff or students to raise issues relating to harassment and bullying. It provides an informal means for addressing concerns of individuals where they feel others behaviour is offensive and/or intimidating, unwanted, has created working conditions or an environment or another form of detriment about which a reasonable person could justifiably complain.
- Management of Performance: This procedure aims to support individuals to reach their full potential within their roles and provides a framework for managing those whose performance does not reach, or has fallen below, the standard expected.
- Sickness Management: This policy and other procedures related to sickness absence are intended to provide support for employees during sickness absence and to monitor and manage absence.
- Grievance Procedure: This is intended to assist the resolution of grievances in a fair, consistent and effective manner. A grievance is a complaint by an employee about an action which their employer has taken or is contemplating taking in relation to them.
There are also a range of other sources of support:
1. The Learning and Development Centre provides a portfolio of training and self development courses that are relevant for managing the risks of stress including Assertiveness, Presentation Skills, Handling Difficult Conversations and Coaching & Mentoring. There are also a selection of video resources
Leadership and Management Development programmes including Stress Management for managers – to assist managers in developing their management skills and including the ability to be proactive in dealing with work related stress, and to understand their management responsibilities and duties with regard to stress amongst their staff
- Stress Awareness Training - to assist employees including managers to identify and reduce their own stress levels
- Personal Effectiveness Training - to assist individuals in developing the core skills that they need in their roles including, Time Management, Assertiveness, Dealing with Change, and Effective Presentation. There is also the mentoring and coaching scheme which is available to all staff.
3. External Support Services - e.g. General Practitioners, specific counselling services (Relate, Cruse, Samaritans).
Completion of this questionnaire is recommended when a stress related issue has arisen and must be completed when a member of staff returns to work after a stress-related absence