Workplace Stress: a Collective Challenge
Every 15 seconds, a worker dies from a work-related accident while another 153 are involved in such accidents, according to the International Labour Organisation.
With this in mind, UKZN joined workers around the world in commemorating the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, an annual international campaign to promote safe, healthy and decent work
Speakers on all five UKZN campuses addressed the theme for 2016: “Workplace Stress: a Collective Challenge”, which seeks to protect the health and well-being of employees due to increasing pressure and demands of modern working life. The main points addressed included how to manage stress and safety tips.
Head of Occupational and Environmental Health in the School of Nursing and Public Health, Professor Rajen Naidoo, focused on working environments while speaking on the Medical School campus.
‘Working environments are unsafe and unhealthy, resulting in millions of lives being lost globally,’ said Naidoo. ‘We need to make our working environments safe and healthy to protect the lives of workers. This International Day forces us to review this, and develop strategies to control workplace hazards. The ILO has chosen the theme of workplace stress for this International Day.
‘This is an important topic given the psychosocial stress placed on workers. The key cause is generally an inefficient organisation with poor management systems. The responsibility for ensuring that workers are not stressed rests with employers, and this can be addressed through efficient work organisation,’ he said.
Practical Tips on Stress Management was the focus of Educational Psychologist Mrs Tracey Visser’s presentation on the Pietermaritzburg campus.
Visser said: ‘High stress levels have been linked to burn-out and increased staff absences. A Bloomberg study recently ranked SA as the second most stressed nation on the planet. Knowing the basics about how to support your colleagues can really help you - and them. You can’t always solve someone’s problems for them, but there are a few simple steps you can take to acquaint yourself with the nature of mental health problems and to become a valuable resource to colleagues who might be in need of support in the workplace.’
Speaking on UKZN’s Westville campus, Clinical Psychologist, Ms Shariefa Hendricks, and UKZN’s Dr Paulette Naidoo examined the psychological, physical and mental impact of stress and coping strategies to deal with stress. Hendricks said that most of the stress experienced was self-generated and that ‘contrary to popular opinion, stress can have both a negative or positive effect by energising and motivating the individual to successfully overcome challenging situations’.
Mr Michael Cloete of Human Resources addressed staff and students on the Edgewood campus. Cloete said stress is a series of psychological and physical reactions in response to a demanding or threatening situation (e.g. a difficult work environment, dangerous work). ‘When a person is faced with overwhelming circumstances that are beyond their normal ability to deal with it emotionally and or physically, they experience distress. This can be due to sudden increased workload, changes in the workplace, changes in the family or sudden changes in their personal health or general welfare. If left unchecked employees’ could experience negative effects on their health, family life, relationships and work performance,’ said Cloete.
Some of the typical responses to stress are becoming irritable, having difficulty sleeping or becoming depressed. ‘There are several ways in which employees can reduce stress which include time management, financial management, getting enough rest, eating a balanced diet, getting enough exercise, relaxation techniques, understanding the symptoms of stress, acknowledging that they are stressed and seek timely support and guidance,’ he said.
Cloete emphasised that it is important that employees speak about issues before they escalate. The UKZN employee wellness website has tips on identifying stress and a list of professionals who can be contacted for assistance where necessary.
Mr Confidence Mngadi and UKZN’s Ms Nonhlanhla Kunene spoke on the Howard College campus about the importance of stress management.