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Improve stress management, companies told

Signs of stress include increased sensitivity, sudden mood swings, lack of sleep, loss of appetite, palpitations and nausea.

Signs of stress include increased sensitivity, sudden mood swings, lack of sleep, loss of appetite, palpitations and nausea.

Work-related stress accounts for a third of sick leave in the UK so it is vital for all companies to identify what causes it, psychologists say.

Although stress is not just caused by bad management, psychologists addressing a seminar organised by the training arm of the General Workers’ Union argued that a proactive approach must be taken.

Psychologist Pricilla Muscat emphasised the need for stress management programmes, drawn up by first identifying the causes and then introducing measures to reduce their effects.

Dr Philip Sciortino, a family doctor who specialises in occupational health, said workplace stress was caused by a mismatch of personal capabilities and the employer’s demands.

It is the second most reported work-related health problem, affecting 22 per cent of workers across Europe.

The number of people suffering from stress-related conditions caused or made worse by work is likely to increase.

Employers are making increased demands on workers through downsizing and restructuring, with higher workloads and more pressure on staff.

Changes in working hours and shifts and worries about job stability all cause stress, with signs including increased sensitivity, sudden mood swings, lack of sleep, loss of appetite, palpitations and nausea.

Ms Muscat said workers have different stress tolerance levels, with some being able to cope better than others.

She suggested stress management techniques such as breathing exercises, counselling services and specific training provided by the employer. Research shows it costs employers five times more to retrain a new worker than it costs to keep an experienced one.

Marie Louise Agius, from HSBC’s Learning and Development Department, said the bank was conscious about the costs of work-related stress and drew up policies to curb it.

The bank offers its employees between four and nine extra days leave as well as subsidies for parents with children, with a 75 per cent subsidy on nursery or kindergarten costs and a subsidy on summer school costs.

Despite these measures, she admitted that the bank is still not stress-free.

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