Stress is costing the UK economy between £5 billion and £11 billion a year depending on which survey is consulted. Stress is also an increasing factor in workplace litigation, with recent cases resulting in awards of up to £200,000. Coping with such an avalanche of stress related illness and problems is not easy but Dr Olga Gregson and Professor Terry Looker, speaking today at the Institute of Personnel and Development’s HRD 2000 conference, have developed a series of products and written a top self-help book to enable individuals and organisations to cope better with stress.
"The key to managing stress more effectively is recognising how important it is to build self-esteem," says Dr Olga Gregson. Professor Looker and Dr Gregson are both academic scientists who have pioneered and popularised a better understanding of the links between health, personality and stress. They believe that it is critical to understand the stress response in order to select the most appropriate strategies to deal effectively with the pressures exerted by today’s world of work. They are quick to point out that stress is a normal part of life and without a certain amount of stress we would not function very well.
As Professor Looker comments, "The body and mind are a finite resource which cannot be taxed indefinitely. When people become overstressed there are a number of factors at play which can contribute to ill-health. These include genetic predisposition and the ability of the body organs to function given that those organs are only as strong as the weakest link. The ill-health suffered reflects this 'weak link'. The signs of stress in individuals can be physical, mental and behavioural."
He continues, "The ugly signs would incorporate anxiety, depression, suicide, heart attack, cancer and arthritis. In organisations the signs include increased levels of absenteeism, premature retirement, increased healthcare costs, more accidents, bad interpersonal relationships and less effective management."
To help manage stress better Dr Gregson and Professor Looker have developed a
programme called 'Stresswise' which has been used by many leading companies such
as Shell, Phillips, ICL and the BBC. The course helps individuals to be responsible for their own stress management and to identify their own sources of stress. Increased awareness will bring reassurance and insight for the individual and the course also puts the individual into the context of the organisation.
As Dr Gregson comments, "Stresswise defines and explains stress; identifies the signs, symptoms and sources of stress; gets individuals to evaluate their own stress and then helps those individuals to modify their behaviour, reduce the demands on their lives, handle conflict and devise a personal planner to manage stress. Stress it must be remembered will always be with us. The trick is to manage it effectively."