Pressure is mounting on employers to step up their stress prevention and management strategies and coaching is likely to be just what the doctor ordered.
Ignoring responsibilities in stress prevention and management can expose employers to a number of legal risks, warns a guide produced by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) with support from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), advisory body Acas and the cross-government Health, Work and Wellbeing programme. The guide spells out employers’ legal obligations in identifying and preventing stress at work.
As the pressure increases, increasing numbers of organisations are turning to coaching to help them improve employees’ wellbeing. Balfour Beatty is one such organisation- within its Plant & Fleet Services division, coaching is at the heart of a multi-pronged wellness programme. The programme focuses on peak performance, emotional intelligence, wellness and use of the HeartMath resilience tool (“Balfour Beatty rolls out executive ‘wellness’ programme to all staff”, Coaching at Work, Volume 5, Issue 4)
Coaching can not only help indentify stress but can help employees develop strategies to tackle existing stress and prevent unhelpful responses in the future, as well as increasing wellbeing generally. Profesor Stephen Palmer, director of City University London’s Coaching Psychology Unit and author of a number of studies and books on stress, said:
“ When we set up the Coaching Psychology Unit at City University London, stress and coaching was a specific area that we decided to research and it’s remained high on our agenda. One item that coachees report is that coaching helps them manage or reduce stress. The research appears to back this up. What has interested us is how stress levels are reduced and wellbeing are improved even if they were not goals to be addressed in the coaching conversation. These are the hidden benefits of coaching which may be overlooked by employers. Solution focused and cognitive behavioural coaching are ideal approaches to assist in stress reduction and enhancing performance at work.”
Coaching can also help improve communication between managers and their direct reports- open communication makes it easier for managers to notice telltale signs. Jane Bird, director of operational policy and performance, Acas, said: “Effective line management is key to preventing stress where possible and managing it when it does occur. If managers create and maintain effective, two-way communication, they are more likely to notice when someone is struggling and intervene.”
The CIPD’s guide, Work-related stress: what the law says, was written by John Hamilton, head of safety, health and wellbeing at Leeds Metropolitan University. It highlights recent cases where employers have faced significant compensation payouts for failing to identify and prevent stress adequately, as well as providing advice on how employers can tackle stress through good people management.
Dame Carol Black, national director for health and work, commented: “It is in employers’ interests to manage stress at work proactively and not just assume all staff are coping, particularly in a tough economic environment where many employees are under pressure to do more with less.”
The CIPD’s quarterly July 2010 Employee Outlook survey showed almost half (49%) of staff have noticed an increase in stress at work as a result of the economic downturn.
Ben Willmott, senior public policy adviser, CIPD, said stress at work can have a significant impact on business performance. “Employers that fail to manage stress effectively risk losing key staff through high absence levels and employee turnover. They will also suffer from low staff morale and risk higher levels of conflict and accidents in the workplace. In addition, they potentially face costly personal injury claims, as well as damage to their employer brand.”
- Coaching can help leaders de-rail : http://www.coaching-at-work.com/2010/06/18/coaching-can-help-stop-leaders-de-railing/
- Special report on health coaching by Professor Palmer and Sarah-jane North, “Be well and prosper”, Volume 3, Issue 4 ( http://www.coaching-at-work.com/2008/07/04/be-well-and-prosper/
- “Calming influence” by Kristina Gyllensten & Professor Stephen Palmer : http://www.coaching-at-work.com/2005/11/04/calming-influence-2/