The University of Otago aims to provide a healthy workplace to all its workers. Mental illness or harm caused by work-related stress is an important issue, and needs to be managed within legislative and best practice guidelines. When workers identify workplace stress as affecting their health, a rehabilitation programme will be developed.
Definitions of stress and mental fatigue
Stress is defined in terms of the interaction between a person and their (work) environment, and is the awareness of not being able to cope with the demands of one’s environment, when this realisation is of concern to the person, in that both are associated with a negative emotional response. Stress itself is not an illness but an awareness that a person is not coping, and that this is a negative feeling, which may need to be conveyed to the employer.
Fatigue is defined as the temporary inability, or decrease in ability, or strong disinclination, to respond to a situation, because of previous over-activity, either mental, emotional or physical.
Recognising the issue
As with any effective Health and Safety initiative, the recognition of the issue at a senior management level is critical. The cultural attitude of recognising, valuing and respecting staff needs to be fostered as a primary preventative step to allow discussion of workplace issues (or stressors) that may generate stress in individuals.
In particular, effective communication needs to be maintained to assist with the recognition of workloads, managing resource and budgeting constraints, effective change management process, etc.
Stress & mental fatigue guidelines
The University has Stress and Mental Fatigue Guidelines outline the procedure for managing stress and mental fatigue by:
- Primary prevention - identifying hazards
- Secondary prevention - recognising stressed workers and workplaces
- Tertiary - intervention and management strategies