‘Management Standards’ work-related stress in the UK: Practical development

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Research commissioned for the UK's Health & Safety Executive (HSE) supports the view that a preventative, risk-assessment based approach would be more effective than case-based methods in achieving a nationwide reduction in work-related stress. The background to this approach is described and discussed in a companion paper in this issue (Mackay, Cousins, Kelly, Lee, & McCaig, 2004). The present paper describes the development of HSE's new stress Management Standards—which offer organizations continuous improvement through a three-phase stress preventative process—and the development of a supporting ‘Indicator Tool’ (a two-phase questionnaire to assess employee perceptions of working conditions). The Management Standards comprise a series of ‘states to be achieved’, which are statements of good practice in six key stressor areas: demands, control, support, relationships, role and organizational change. For each stressor area there is also a ‘platform statement’ that outlines the main aims to be achieved by the organization. This statement may include a target percentage of employees finding that the organization meets the standard: this matter will be settled after the standards have been assessed in a public consultation campaign. To use the new process, an organization's state can first be assessed using the Indicator Tool; liaising with workers in focus groups enables a further exploration of issues raised; finally, there may be formulation of interventions and subsequent review. It is not intended that the standards will be legally enforceable. HSE's aim is that they and the associated methodology will enable organizations to effectively tackle work-related stress, and subsequently reduce both its incidence and prevalence.

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