Corporate In-House Programmes

Stress – A Problem You Would Rather Not Have…or a Way of Improving Business Performance?

Many managers in organisations (understandably) see the issue of workplace stress as a problem that they would rather not have, or sometimes prefer to think doesn’t even exist. But there is a very different way of looking at it. Once it is understood that everyone experiences some form of ‘stress’ every day of their lives, which they may or may not be consciously aware of, then it becomes clearer that what really matters is how we as individuals manage our stress and how well we recover from it on a daily basis.

A useful way of thinking about this is to consider how a person’s work performance varies as a function of the level of ‘pressure’ that they feel under. Often people will say that they perform better under pressure – and generally there is a lot of truth in that for most of us. However, as the pressure continues to increase, and particularly if it is sustained over a period of time, then the increasing level of performance tends to ‘flatten off’ or reach a plateau. If the high level of pressure continues then the person can rapidly move into a more dangerous area where their ability to perform at their best drops – usually quite dramatically and often without the person realising it themselves for a while.

Once the performance starts to decrease, the ability to exercise sound judgement and make good priority decisions tends to diminish as well and the person’s level of productivity and creativity can fall very rapidly too. A high proportion of the UK working population are operating in this ‘stress zone’ for much of the time and are therefore never going to perform consistently at their best. Unless the person has a high degree of self-awareness they won’t usually recognise that they are in this area or that they can do something positive about it. The result is the extraordinarily high level of stress related illness that exists across the UK working population. This includes the minor illnesses (flu, stomach problems etc.) as well as the more serious and debilitating illnesses that can have severe long term consequences for the individual and their families, as well as many hidden costs for the employer.

A More Positive View of Managing Stress

When people learn to manage their stress effectively they become much more aware of where they are on the ‘Performance versus Pressure’ curve. Having supported a number of organisations in developing their policy and approach to managing stress it becomes clear that once the employees become tuned into their own experience of stress they are much more able to manage themselves in a way that (a) helps them to recover from stress more quickly and (b) enables them to keep themselves at the peak of their performance for a much greater proportion of the time. The benefits to the employer can be substantial in terms of the creative thinking, prioritisation and decision making ability of staff, all of which lead to increased productivity and cost savings in terms of sickness absence, temporary absence cover and staff turnover.

The Different Sources of Stress

There can be many different causes and perceptions of stress including work-related stress, stress due to circumstances within a person’s private life which is affecting their ability to perform in their job role, and also the situation where there is another problem and ‘stress’ is used as an ‘excuse’ or avoidance tactic. Often situations where I have been asked to investigate stress have involved conflicts in the relationship between a manager and the individual (or individuals) concerned. All of these situations, if left unaddressed can have a serious impact on the business of the organisation and on people’s health.

Many of our programmes are designed to help the individual (and the manager when appropriate) to learn to recognise stress for what it is, whatever the cause, and to develop coping and recovery strategies in the first instance. Once these strategies are in place the person is able to deal more effectively with the causes of stress, for example by resolving relationship or priority conflicts. Then the second part of the process is to help the individual develop their own personal strategies for dealing with the surrounding circumstances so as to reduce or eliminate causes of stress for themselves and others. Of course when the individual is dealing with their own stress more effectively they are less likely to raise the stress levels in others – stress in organisations does tend to spread like an infection!

Types of Support Available

I have been delivering in-house stress management programmes and support consultancy across a range of industry and public sectors for a period of more than 10 years including finance, banking and insurance, technology, manufacturing, utilities, legal, construction, leisure and local government services.

What Programme Sponsors Have Said:

“I was struck by the positive feedback after the event…Peter’s skill in delivery and management of the group dynamics… the overwhelming theme was one of an approach that was ‘powerful but without threat’ and for the group this learning, insight and awareness has remained with them.”

Su Pascoe

Service Manager (Local Government – Intermediate Care)

“The feedback and statistics we’ve had back have been tremendous…the decrease of sickness absences is great…not just minor sickness and ailments like headaches and stomach problems…but also the more serious elements of sickness related to stress…these have decreased…which has been great news for the group.”

Tammy Day

People Manager – RBS Group Technology

And then…

“It had been a great course for Technology Services and I was very keen to bring it into WorldPay as well…the feedback we’ve had from that course has been tremendous. For people to have the resources and skill sets to notice stress in those they manage and also to help themselves. And not just in the workplace…it’s been tremendous for their home life…feedback was very much around how it has helped them in their personal life…which has put benefits into the workforce…with increased levels of motivation. It’s good to catch people who are stressed before they become overstressed.”

Tammy Day

Head of Business Control – RBS WorldPay

“Peter facilitated the two days fantastically. The event itself was great in terms of practical things to use at work and home. Excellent! Every person working for a large organisation should go on this course.”

Kim Paterson

Business Support Manager, International Banking Group

Support Options Include:

  • Stress management workshops
  • Individual one-to-one coaching programmes
  • Working with teams and conflict
  • Work-life balance and well-being – policy and programmes
  • Personal effectiveness training – e.g. managing work-load, prioritisation, managing conflict, communication and negotiation strategies etc.
  • Mediation services
  • Supporting development of HR stress and well-being policy

If you would like to make contact in order to discuss your particular circumstances or requirements, or just to find out more, then please email me on or telephone me on office landline 01803 814127 or Mobile 07775 591870.

I look forward to talking with you.

Peter Jefford

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