There has been a rise in work related stress in the motor trade over the last twelve months, resulting in an increase in the cases of `poor sleep’ and `anxiety.’ Research from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has also shown that those who work in the motor industry have suffered more injuries at work in comparison to other industries.
There has also been a cost to employers due to ’presentism’ where the employees are present at work when feeling unwell which in turn may lead to mistakes and accidents in the workplace.
Low levels of stress are helpful for optimum performance of the employees. However, high levels of stress and if these levels are not brought under control, can lead to serious mental ill health. This can result in `burnout.’ This means, physical and mental `mal function’ of the employee and a result, the employee concerned cannot function effectively in the workplace.
Overall, industries have lost in the region of seventeen million working days in the last financial year due to work related stress, depression, and anxiety. This is more than half of the overall working days lost due to work related ill health. Stress could lead to long term absenteeism (source HSE).
The figures from the HSE indicate that there has been an overall increase in cases (about 11%), during the last financial year, in work-related stress, depression or anxiety in comparison to the previous financial year. As a result, such issues have become a major problem to businesses.
`Ben’ is a charity which supports the employees in the motor industry, and they have reported that one in two workers have struggled with mental health and wellbeing and half of those who are employed in the industry are dealing with stress, anxiety, low mood, and depression.
Ben has also reported detrimental effects on emotional wellbeing due to spending time indoors in the winter months and hance having less interactions with others. Also having financial issues with increasing bills has also led to increased stress levels.
It is also evident, from the information provided by Ben, that there is an increase in employees seeking financial guidance and accessing their counselling service on benefits, over the last year.
It is reported by the HSE that a high workload and lack of work life balance are the main causes of the stress in the motor trade.
The HSE has defined the causes of stress in the workplace. These are:
- Demands of the job (the high workload was mentioned above).
- Not being able to control the way the employee does the work.
- Lack of support from colleagues and the employer.
- Relationship issues (e.g., being bullied).
- Lack of understanding of the job role and responsibilities and
- Not being engaged when the business is undergoing change.
These factors may have a negative impact on the stress levels and hence the mental wellbeing of any employee.
Human factors may also play a part. Lack of sufficient communication between management and employees can lead to mistakes which can be detrimental to the business and hence the blame game takes place and that leads to stress and anxiety.
There may be other issues which may be noteworthy, and they do also have an adverse effect on stress level of the employees. These are related to post-COVID 19 situations. These are job insecurity, longer hours and contacting a form of COVID-19.
Signs of Stress
Typically, in an organisation:
- High employee turnover.
- Arguments in meetings.
- High number of reports of stress.
- High numbers of complaints and grievances
- Decreased overall performance of the team.
- High sickness absences.
There are clear indicators of high levels of stress in employees, it is observed that they:
- Take more time off.
- Arrive late for work.
- Be more twitchy or nervous.
- Have mood swings.
- Can be withdrawn.
- Display a loss of motivation or confidence and
- Show an increased emotional reaction.
Measures in Place:
Ben, the HSE and the HSE’s Working Minds Campaign, with the National Body Repair Association, Vehicle Body Repair Association, and Independent Garage Association are promoting how to prevent workplace stress and hence support and enhance good mental health across the motor industry.
HSE’s Working Minds Campaign supports small businesses by supporting with advice to recognise signs and causes of workplace stress and providing support to promote good mental health in the workplace.
Also, charities such as `Mind’ and `Mental Health at Work’ can also provide advice and support where needed.
Additionally, the employee concerned may to seek medical assistance form their General Practitioner (GP).
Benefits of Reduction in Stress in the Workplace:
Reduction in Stress levels, in the workplace, would see a reduction in lost working days and hence reducing the losses to the business and saving, potentially, billions of pounds. Employers may see a return of five-fold increase in every pound invested in good mental health.
The result due to reduction of stress levels would be `a happier’ workforce and hence an increase in productivity which will lead to bigger profits. “Good Mental Health is Good for Business.”
In addition, if the measures to prevent, reduce or manage stress levels are effectively applied, the employer is less likely to receive enforcement notices from the HSE.
Change of culture, in an organisation, must occur to ensure that the workforce feel that they are valued, heard, and supported. Prevention of stress and hence mental ill health and consequently, maintenance of good mental health, of the workplace, should be the main priority of any employer.
The managers should be trained to recognise the signs of stress and other mental ill health concerns and start the conversations with the employees and listen attentively to their concerns. The conversations can either be in a meeting or on a one-to-one basis and then carry out follow up meetings to measure or gauge any progress. During the discussion, the manager may recommend that the employee seeks medical assistance, if that is deemed to be the best course of action.
It is advisable for employers should make the effort to understand the employee holistically and the life issues of the person. Then the employer may begin to understand the root causes of any problems which has caused stress and mental ill health to the employee.
Management should take steps to remove any sigma associated with stress and mental health issues. It should be encouraged to talk about all mental health issues, in the workplace. In meetings, there should be measures to actively encourage talking about this subject and wellbeing should be promoted.
The management should recognise mental ill health issues, such as stress, as other health and safety concerns and address them just as workplace safety issues are addressed.
Any employee assistance program to be extended to all employees and this should be discussed and applied at all levels.
It is required by legislation for employers to protect employees from workplace stress. The first step is to carry out a Risk Assessment. The factors to consider in the risk assessment are as follows:
- Reach out and have conversations with those who may be suffering from stress.
- Recognise the signs and causes of stress.
- Respond to risks that were identified.
- Reflect on the actions that were taken.
- Routinely implement and review the actions.