World Mental Health Day - Workload, Stress & Burnout

Your mental health is vitally important. Have you experienced stress or burnout from increased workload? In recognition of this year’s World Mental Health day, FSU are hosting a helpline for members this Wednesday, 7th October 12-6pm. Give us a call on our freephone numbers (ROI) 1800 819 191 (NI-GB) 0800 358 0071 or email us at advic[email protected].

The past few months have brought many challenges for members working both in branches and from home. From going to work afraid of bringing COVID home, to the excess burden many are experiencing having their office at home, feeling even greater social isolation than before. It is crucial to recognise the impact that work has had on mental health. Prior to the pandemic work-related stress was the health and safety issue of this century. Couple this now with a global pandemic and it is potentially a lethal cocktail. Every employer should have a comprehensive workplace mental health policy and plan to protect you. FSU has led the charge for a right to disconnect and for working home assessments to include mental health checks.

Overview of legislation

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has identified the causes of WRS as job insecurity and uncertainty, hours of work and workload, bullying behaviour, lack of support and lack of clarity on role. FSU research has identified the always on culture of mails, messages and calls outside of hours as significantly increasing stress and pressure.

The main legislative framework relevant is the Health and Safety Act 2005, the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, the Code of Practice on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying and the EU Framework Directive 89/331. These generally provide for a legal duty of care on employers to employees. It should be noted that these right also extend to working from home.

The problem with the legislative environment on this issue is that it was not specifically written with work-related stress in mind and certainly not with the significant, and likely permanent, prevalence of it in many workplaces. Health and safety regulations and legislation are largely of a 'trips and slips' nature. They were written with more traditional issues in mind.

What is needed? Amendment Acts or new legislation is required to make the causes of work-related stress an actionable wrong. Access for trade union officials to investigates workplaces is required to provide confidence to staff to raise issues and be protected. It is not good enough to merely try equipping workers with coping mechanism like well-being programs, emotional intelligence courses or cognitive behavioural therapy. We need a statutory framework for prosecuting negligent employers and for union inspection to make safe working environments.

Some practical advice on managing workplace issues:

1. Do tasks by agreement not imposition

There is nothing worse than more and more work being piled on, saying nothing and just letting the stress build up more and more. Don't allow your manager to impose more work on you. Seek agreement. Have they the right staffing levels and support in place? Have you the right skills and training? Stand up for yourself, with your colleagues, and seek agreement on new tasks or increased workloads.

2. Speak up

Work intensification is rising and is a real cause of work-related stress. Put simply, management are trying to get more out of you and your colleagues, and they will not stop until you say stop. So, learn to speak up professionally and confidently. It is ok to say no or to ask for more time or support. If demands are too great talk to your colleagues and together request a meeting with your line manager

3. If you’re not in a union, join FSU

Work is increasingly pressurised and insecure. By joining a union, someone has your back. You have someone to call, talk to and get advice from. You also have the potential to be part of something much bigger and better. If your colleagues also join, you have the chance to improve working conditions for the many not just yourself. You will feel better about work being in a union. If you work in finance or technology, you can join FSU at https://www.fsunion.org/join/

If you are in a non-union workplace it is going to be hard to change your employer’s attitude. Most employers seem to think pressure on workers is a good thing and work-related stress only occurs when people can’t handle that pressure. The issue will be individualised to you and how you handle situations. It is part of the ever-increasing culture of blaming the victim.

More info:

Mental Health Ireland

HSE Your Mental Health Information

Stress – causes of stress and how it can impact on you

Gov.ie A mental health policy for everyone