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iWorkHealth > Interventions > Strategies to prevent workplace stress

Strategies to prevent workplace stress

It is important to understand that there is no “one size fits all” approach to create a psychologically healthy workplace and success depends on involvement of all stakeholders to address the challenges unique to each organisation.

A combination of organisational and individual approaches would be required to manage workplace stress and develop resilience amongst employees. Examples of organisational-level strategies include job procedure modification, review of workload, improved supervision, better clarity of job functions and provision of Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP)1. Individual-level strategies include taking time off to recharge, confiding problems with supervisor, colleagues and friends as well as strengthening coping skills through effective stress management.

However, managing workplace stress that focuses on changing individual behaviour without changing the sources of stress may have limited effectiveness2. The challenge then is to identify effective interventions to address the sources of stress and to communicate the programmes effectively to all levels within the organisation.

What employers can do:

  • Involve employees in identifying appropriate preventive measures
  • Implement preventive measures e.g. a harassment prevention policy
  • Communicate risk and preventive measures to employees as part of employee orientation and on regular platforms
  • Regularly monitor effectiveness of preventive measures using iWorkHealth
  • Create a supportive environment for your employees e.g.
    • Create a safe and secure process for employees to seek professional support, e.g. Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
    • Set up a peer support group
    • Promote the use of anonymous helplines
    • Consider training your HR, line managers and supervisors to handle harassment cases, and provide counselling services and support to affected individuals
    • Establish a harassment reporting line to ensure timely reporting of the cases and provide closure of the incident to prevent recurrences.
    • Visit TAFEP’s website for more resources on the prevention of workplace harassment

What employees can do:

  1. Attend talks, workshops or seminars to learn how to cope with stress e.g.
    • Participate in mental relaxation activities e.g. meditation, breathing exercises
    • Participate in physical activities e.g. exercises, yoga
    • Adopt healthy lifestyle habits e.g. healthy diet
    • Learn techniques e.g. problem solving, time management

  2. Consider these tips to avoid harassment:
    • Keep your distance from anyone who exhibits unacceptable social behaviour. If this is not possible, stay alert and look for escape routes if need be.
    • Show confidence in your body language so you do not appear vulnerable.
    • Adopt a buddy system in situations where personal safety may be compromised.
    • Be familiar with workplace harassment-related policy and procedures in your organisation.
    • Call for help using pre-arranged distress signals or a personal duress system (safety alarm) if your safety is compromised.
    • Report potential cases to your management immediately.

    If you are unable to leave and your harasser continues his or her actions:
    • Tell the harasser assertively to stop his or her unreasonable behaviour.
    • Warn the harasser that you will report the event to a higher authority or to the organisation's management.
    • Summon help from anyone, especially security or management personnel who is around.
    • Keep evidence of wrongdoing in any format (e.g. photographs, screenshots, messages, or recordings).

    If you face workplace harassment, you should
    • Report the incident immediately to your supervisor, HR personnel or someone on the management team, so that they can intervene promptly to ensure your well-being.
    • Seek emotional support if your organisation has an in-company peer support programme or engage a service provider for employees.
    • File a report with TAFEP or call 6838 0969 for advice. TAFEP will assist and provide advice on the appropriate actions you can take and the avenues for support.
    • Make an online police report for possible violations under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA). Alternatively, you may visit a police station to make your police report.
    • Make an appeal to the Ministry of Manpower if you were dismissed or your employment was terminated due to the harassment or your reporting of harassment to the management or authority. With effect from 1 April 2019, you can also file a wrongful dismissal claim at the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) within one month from the last day of your employment if you feel that your dismissal was wrongful. For managers and executives who were dismissed with notice or salary in lieu of notice, you can only file a wrongful dismissal claim if you have served your employer for at least 6 months.

Below are some suggestions of strategies to prevent and manage workplace stress. Such interventions should be evaluated periodically to assess their effectiveness.

 

iWorkHealth Report Sections

Possible sources of stress/workplace stressors

Strategies to prevent and manage workplace stress

Overall Mental Well-Being

External sources of stress: e.g. work issues, relationship issues, daily hassles1 .

Internal sources of stress: thinking styles, social skills, personality type3.

If you are an employee:
It is common for us to feel stressed once in a while. To find out more about how to better cope with stress, please click here. You may also attend talks and workshops organised by your company to learn how to manage your stress.

For more information on how to enhance your mental wellbeing, please click here

If you need to talk to someone about the stress you are feeling, do not be afraid to seek help. Call the helplines listed under the “Where to seek Help” section, or seek professional help.

If you are an employer: 

Consider kick-starting or enhancing your workplace mental health programmes. For more information, check out Health Promotion Board’s programmes and resources under the “For Employers” section. 

 

 

iWorkHealth Report Sections

Possible sources of stress/workplace stressors

Strategies to prevent and manage workplace stress

Workplace Harassment

Physical violence, threats of violence, verbal abuse, bullying, stalking, sexual harassment

Establish company policies that prohibit discrimination and any forms of harassment at the workplace

For information on workplace harassment, please refer to Tripartite Advisory on Managing Workplace Harassment and TAFEP’s website

 

 

iWorkHealth Report Sections

Possible sources of stress/workplace stressors

Strategies to prevent and manage workplace stress

Job Satisfaction

Job Control

Role or task ambiguity, role conflict

Role in organisation

Assign clear roles, define tasks and responsibilities, to avoid role or task ambiguity and role conflict

Regularly review tasks and responsibilities to ensure that it is up to date

Job Recognition

Career stagnation, poor career prospects, pay or benefits,  job insecurity, low social value to work

Career development

Provide adequate training to develop employees’ competencies and skills

Improve communication to reduce uncertainty about career development

Regularly review career mobility opportunities for employees

Communicate to employees the importance of their work

Acknowledge and show appreciation of contributions by establishing a system to reward exemplary work

Job Demands

Job Satisfaction

Lack of variety, fragmented or meaningless work, under use of skills, high uncertainty4

Task Design

Matching the job and the employee

Review work tasks to match jobs to employees’ abilities (physical and psychological skills) and experience

Work Redesign

Design jobs with meaningful tasks and provide employees with job purpose and opportunities for them to use their skills

Design jobs by dividing tasks into different job categories or changing processes to achieve a more balanced set of responsibilities

Job Demands

Work load, lack of control over work pace, time pressure to meet deadlines

Workload & work pace

Adjust the workload such that it is in line with employees' capabilities and available resources

Identify tasks that can be reduced, e.g. eliminate unnecessary tasks or outsource specialised tasks to subject matter experts

Identify activities that can be automated

Regularly assess the time required for tasks and set realistic deadlines

Reassign tasks to limit overexposure of employees to stressful situations over a period of time e.g. rotate tasks after a certain time period

Provide adequate coaching and training on areas such as time management and supervisory practices (e.g. managing perceptions and expectations of staff, being able to plan, review and adjust workload levels accordingly)

Encourage employees to do stretching exercises that can be done at the workstation or during break times at meetings

Job Demands

Irregular shift schedules, inflexible work schedules or long working hours

Work schedule 

Rearrange shift schedules and breaks according to the workload e.g. avoid excessively long shifts and to include rest periods in-between

Facilitate flexible, balanced work schedules e.g. flexitime, flexible work arrangement

Job Control

Job Satisfaction

Low participation in decision making, lack of control over work

Control 

Provide opportunities for employees to have a say in how their work is carried out e.g. to participate in decisions and actions affecting their jobs (work process, priority, resources, work pace and sequencing of tasks)

Provide opportunities for employees to develop new skills to do their work e.g. through on the job training or external training

Social Support

 

Poor relationships with colleagues, interpersonal conflict, lack of social support

 

 

Interpersonal relationships at work

Build supportive relationships between supervisors and employees, and among employees e.g. establish mentor or buddy systems, organise bonding activities to encourage co-operation and teamwork, train supervisors in people management skills

Communicate regularly with employees about how they are coping (especially during periods of change or high work demands) and provide help with managing and negotiating workload

Encourage support among employees e.g. through sharing of knowledge and experiences

Provide possible sources of external assistance for employees e.g. external counselling services or employee assistance programmes (EAP)

Create a safe and supportive environment such as having policies to protect employees’ safety, health and well-being

Conflicting demands of work and home, low support at home, problems relating to both partners being in the labour force (dual career)

Home-work interface

Encourage employees to discuss conflicting demands between work and home. However, do ensure to keep employees’ issues confidential

Encourage work-life balance by supporting family-friendly benefits and policies (flexitime, flexible work arrangement)

Organisational Culture

Poor communication, low levels of support for problem solving and personal development, lack of definition of organisational objectives

Build supervisory skills e.g. in people management, supervisory practices, communication, stress management

Engage the services of a consultant, to suggest a fresh approach to organisational issues/improvements

Develop an open culture with appropriate form of communication channel to share updates, changes or to seek opinions, share ideas, suggestions or concerns

Establish transparent decision-making processes and inform employees regularly about important decisions. When employees are aware of the plans, uncertainty, speculation and stress can be reduced. 

Management Support

Poor communication, low levels of support, lack of staff involvement

Establish procedures to address workplace stress. A strong and consistent support from management indicates commitment to reduce stress at work.

Involve employees in identifying measures to reduce workplace stress. This joint effort improves mutual understanding and facilitates the planning and execution of measures to reduce stress at the workplace.

Communicate risk and preventive measures to employees e.g. as part of employee orientation or at regular platforms

Regularly monitor effectiveness of preventive measures using iWorkHealth

Create a supportive environment for employees e.g.

  • Provide assistance for employees who need professional support e.g. Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
  • Set up peer support groups
  • Promote the use of anonymous helplines

 

 

iWorkHealth Report Sections

Possible sources of stress/workplace stressors

Strategies to prevent and manage workplace stress

Environment & equipment

Issues relating to the reliability, availability and suitability of equipment and facilities

Establish risk and control measures based on occupational health and safety management system

Provide a comfortable and clean working environment

Provide appropriate tools or equipment to employees to support them in their tasks

Regularly check and make improvement to equipment used at work and the physical working conditions, taking account into ergonomic aspects

Poor environmental conditions such as lack of space, poor lighting, excessive noise

Provide appropriate lighting, ventilation, air quality, temperature levels and noise levels for a conducive working environment

 

 

References:

  1. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety and Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW). Stress assess: A survey of the psychosocial factors in your workplace; https://stressassess.ca/#oncow-contact-us-wrapper

  2. Dollard, M. et al. 2012. The Australian Workplace Barometer: Report on psychosocial safety climate and worker health in Australia. Canberra, Safe Work Australia.

  3. Eurofound. 2012. Health and well-being at work: A report based on the fifth European Working Conditions Survey. Dublin. Publications Office of the European Union.

  4. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound); European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA). 2014. Psychosocial risks in Europe: Prevalence and strategies for prevention. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

  5. Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Work-related stress and how to tackle it; http://hse.gov.uk/stress

  6. International Journal of Labour Research. 2016. Psychosocial risks, stress and violence in the world of work, Vol. 8, Issue 1-2

  7. International Labour Organization (ILO). 2012. Stress prevention at work checkpoints: Practical improvements for stress prevention in the workplace. Geneva: International Labour Office.

  8. International Labour Organization (ILO). 2016. Workplace stress: A collective challenge, report for the World Day for Safety and Health at Work (SafeDay), 28 Apr. Geneva: International Labour Office.

  9. iWorkhealth. 2005. List of workplace interventions for companies

  10. New Zealand Occupational Safety and Health Service, Department of Labour. 2003. Healthy Work: Managing stress and fatigue in the workplace. Wellington, New Zealand.


1 EAP is a support program that assists employees with problems (personal and/or work-related) that may impact their job performance, health, mental and emotional well-being. EAP services may include confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services for employees and their household members.
2 Michie, S. 2002. “Causes and Management of Stress At Work”, in Occupational Environment Medicine, 59, pp. 67-72.  
https://www.healthhub.sg/a-z/diseases-and-conditions/86/stress
4 International Labour Organization (ILO). 2016. Workplace stress: A collective challenge, Report for the World Day for Safety and Health at Work (SafeDay), 28 Apr. (Geneva)