This month, I would particularily like to attract your attention to the subject of stress at work and the ways to fight it. To do so, I have chosen a book called ‘Stress’ by Jean Benjamin Stora, a renowned psychosomatician and teacher at the Medical School of the Hôpital Salpétrière, published by PUF, in the ‘Que sais-je?’ collection.
What does he tell us, namely in Chapter Five?
“Any man or woman is considered a sort of biological machine and in the case of fatigue, in other words, if he or she suffers from emotional and somatic exhaustion, they should be able to regenerate their strength and get back to work, through sheer will (...) In the case of fatigue, a part is changed and the machine becomes a reference model...
There are two levels of stress in a person’s health: a sociological level of the study of global behaviour in stressed people and a psychological and biological level of individual reactions, according to the genetic past and processes of psychological maturation. On the sociological level, an audit tool, such as the Professional Stress Indicator (PSI, C.Cooper, Manchester University), is a method that allows an organisation to measure the main aspects of stress both quantitatively and qualitatively, revealing disfunctioning factors, such as absence of personal involvement on behalf of the staff, poor enterprise culture, problems with decision making, lack of concentration in carrying out tasks or decisions, poor staff relationships, etc. .(...). The PSI establishes a diagnosis of organisational stress, thanks to a questionnaire that any business manager, whatever his or her job, can fill in, in the space of three quarters of an hour.”
As a professional in the field of relaxation, I do indeed notice a form of stress among an increasing number of patients who come to see me, that shows in a kind of resignation regarding poor personal relationships at work. This makes their work duller and brings it down to mere wage-earning, which of course, in time, makes it lose its meaning and the absence of meaning is the antechamber of a latent form of depression, if one is not careful.
Jean- Benjamin Stora continues, offering namely: “stress management seminars aimed at reducing absenteeism and showing in various countries (United States, Canada, Great Britain, Sweden and France) that:
1) Such programmes carried out in firms result in real money saving.
2) Research on professional stress confirms that some organisational functioning has consequences on the employees, managers, technicians and even directors’ health.”
As a coach, I notice that a firm with a Taylor type structure, with no shared vision on the managerial level, raises no enthusiasm among the employees and, in the long run, induces stress.
Jean-Benjamin Stora also suggests different processes which have been successful in preventing psychological and social risks: “The objective of the new BIT course ‘SOLVE’, (2002), with its seven special modules, is to solve psychological and sociological problems at work. SOLVE deals with stress linked to tobacco, alcohol and drugs, Aids and violence at work, as interdependent elements that can affect workers’ health.” Furthermore, he quotes the ‘Control Data’ programme, ‘Stay well’, in five parts: stopping smoking, controlling your weight and cardio-vascular health, managing organisational stress and controlling your diet. After check- ups, each person chooses a programme, according to his or her profile. The participation rate varies depending the firms (65 to 95%)”
Lastly, in France, Jean Benjamin Stora also quotes the Fleurbaix Laventie Ville Santé (health) programme where the town’s inhabitants have become players in their own health care.
However, Jean-Benjamin Stora points the fact that “ such programmes only work if actions are carried out on the organisation level; they are tricky to put into practice and can strongly question the culture and the identity of the firm: 1) specific actions on careers, 2) implementation of training programmes, 3) changes in style of leadership , 4) action taken on the structures of the firm, 5) attention paid to surroundings, 6) careful attention paid to complaints, 7) taking part in decision making, 8) redistribution of power and authority, 9) internal communication strategy, 10) placing organisational stress back within the framework of the firm’s global strategy.”
Let us now see what Jean-Benjamin Stora says and advises, on the psychological and biological level: “ people are not equal where stress is concerned; their psychological answer to it is limited by their personal story and their family and socio-professional surroundings. In many cases, body relaxation therapies are recommended (aerobics, stretching, tai chi, qi gong, yoga...); they slow down the cardiac and respiratory rhythm, reduce high blood pressure and muscular tension risks and relieve some pains (...), with psychological consequences: anguish and depression are temporarily reduced, etc...(...) some mental relaxation methods, such as meditation, when it is carried out in an atmosphere protecting the person from all sensorial excitement and accompanied by slow rhythmic breathing, can reduce many symptoms, at the rate of two ten to twenty minutes sessions a day.”
So, ‘Are you ready? Get set, ready...’
Christmas is just around the corner and I would like to wish you a ‘Merry Christmas’, cultivating serenity as best you can, since, in my opinion, in these hard times, it is not only the best ‘renewable energy, but above all, the most wonderful present that is always available, if you take care to look for it deep down in yourself.