Thursday, April 25, 2013

Healthy working and UK stress levels

There are more workplace health resources available these days than at any time in the past. From the Chartered Institute for Personnel & Development to the Health and Safety Executive, as well as the many providers of in-house training plus employee assistance programmes and so on, there's a wide range of products and services dedicated solely to workplace wellbeing and employee development.

And it all just goes to show how far the workplace has evolved - not to mention the pace with which it continues to evolve. If you look at episodes of, say, Life On Mars, you get a picture of how the workplace used to be - albeit in a somewhat caricature form - with all its pies, chips, lunchtime pints and almost opaque fugs of blue-grey cigarette smoke, it might as well be Mars (or another planet, at any rate) compared with today.

But we're not without our challenges right now - and as the recession showed, the prevailing economic situation can have an effect on the number of people suffering stress, and the levels to which they're experiencing it.

Luckily, it looks like we've (narrowly) avoided a triple-dip recession - but there are still concerns for wellbeing around stress levels, and longer working hours. Workplace health strategies are undoubtedly playing their part in making the situation better - but in terms of the road ahead, how much will still need to be done to fully address the issue of stress management?

New research suggests that stress could potentially lead to heart disease - which is genuinely concerning, especially in light of stress often being described as epidemic. However, the NHS and other health sites advise that the biggest dangers from stress come from dangerous coping mechanisms (smoking, drinking, overeating) that some people use to counteract it. But if a link is ever proven between stress and coronary heart disease, it will undoubtedly mean redoubled efforts to minimise it in the workplace to an even greater extent than now.

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