Stress case study – Singer instruments
This science company has 45 employees and a diverse workforce. The quality manager was asked to take over health and safety management for the organisation at a time when 2 workers were on sick leave with work-related stress. The quality manager became the Champion for Prevention of Stress in the organisation.
The company made urgent changes to help the workers - making sure there was regular contact and talking to them about a staged return to work. There were adjustments to their roles to make sure they did not go back to the same situation they were in when they went off sick. Both successfully returned to work.
The next step was to use the Management Standards Indicator Tool to find out what workers across the company were concerned about. Lack of management support was raised as the biggest concern. It seems the largest cause of stress was not workload or pressure but feeling isolated because they felt unable to share worries or concerns.
Now, if someone has a problem they cannot discuss with their manager, they ask the health and safety manager for help. Key to reducing employee distress is having someone in place who can listen to them without judging them and can help them to resolve their problem or point them in the direction of appropriate help.
There is now a very content workforce in the company. The Health and Safety Manager role covered all departments in the company and this independence allowed him to talk to everyone most days.
The fact that he did not have targets specific to the day-to-day running of the business signalled to employees his availability at any time if they had a problem they wanted to talk about. The quality manager is a registered counsellor and psychotherapist.
Update one year later
The company continues with its project which is delivering good results.
As the next step, the safety manager and senior managers have been working to promote the idea that 'It's OK not to be OK'. The messaging behind this is a recognition that many people will go through some kind of mental health problem during their lives and that it can affect anyone at any level within the organisation. It focuses on stress (work related or personal) as the most common cause of further problems. This has led to discussions on stress and mental health becoming part of everyday conversation throughout the company, removing the stigma and making it more likely people will seek help.
The project makes information from MIND, a recognised expert in mental health, available to everybody. These free, easy-to-understand, bite-sized leaflets help start the conversation on stress, whether it is rooted inside or outside work. Staff now feel more able to ask for help and guidance at an early stage and problems are resolved more quickly rather than festering and becoming worse.
Update 2 years' later from the organisation's Champion for Prevention of Stress
The last year has seen Singer Instruments continue to grow. We are aware that expansion, like any change, can lead to employee stress when the correct resources are not in place.
When we ran the Management Standards survey this time, we identified a slight dip in 'Demands' in the assembly department. This information led me to hold confidential interviews with everybody in the department to clarify their concerns; they were worried that they may not be able to cope with the additional workload as the business expanded.
We have addressed this by increasing the number of staff and implemented, with their support, an ongoing training programme which aims to train everybody in the assembly department to do every job.
I repeated the confidential interviews several weeks later and those who expressed concern originally are now happy that things have been addressed and are confident that the department will be well placed to cope with future growth.
The training has also empowered staff and with their new knowledge, they are able to move from one job to another. This gives them additional interests, making them better able to deal with the more repetitive elements, as they know they won't be doing the same thing day in, day out.
Singer has entered into partnership with Bridgwater and Taunton College so that its engineering students spend one day a week at Singer Instruments. This gives the students valuable work experience and we are confident that we will be able to offer employment to some of them when they reach the end of their studies.
In the 7 years that we have been using the Management Standards, I have seen a marked change in employees' response to it. When we first used it, even though it is anonymous, people were unsure of the process and why it was important.
Now, the process is embedded in our everyday policies, staff welcome it, there has been a marked change in attitudes to stress and mental health and it is discussed in an open and honest manner across the company.
In the next few months, we have plans to train staff to provide support on mental health in each area of the business. Their role will include providing support and guidance to anyone who may need it and, where necessary, directing them towards appropriate services.