Minister of Labour, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo??

While every effort must be made to cater to the physical well-being of employees, factors which influence their mental health must also be taken into consideration.

This is the view of Minister of Labour, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, who observed that stress related problems could have serious implications for workplace efficiency and productivity.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Caribbean Tertiary Level Personnel Association’s workshop "Managing Everyday Stress: Steps Towards Boosting Workplace Productivity" at the Savannah Hotel last weekend, she observed that as the workplace has changed over the years, the medical profession has seen increasing number of complaints for stress related illnesses.

"Oftentimes, reduced performance… absenteeism are manifestations of stress in the workplace. If the total well-being of a person is to be considered, one must also bear in mind the impact of stress on the quality of life when individuals are not at work."

Citing a National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) survey in 2006, which drew on 425 participants from the private and public sectors, the Labour Minister said a number of employees reported that they were suffering from stress, with cases more prevalent in women than men.

The survey, she revealed, also listed the major causes of stress as repetitive work, too many deadlines, unsafe and unhealthy physical settings at the workplace and working too many hours.

Internationally, Dr. Byer Suckoo pointed out stress was the second most frequently reported work-related health problem in Europe, affecting some 22 per cent of persons.

She added the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reported that stress related conditions caused or made worse by working conditions was likely to increase and as such, some countries had begun to update their occupational safety and health strategies to deal with this issue.

In addition, Dr. Byer Suckoo noted the strong link between stress and the onset of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (CNCD) such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, with CNCD’s accounting for half of all deaths in the Caribbean.

She disclosed that of these, some 30 per cent are due to heart disease, which is considered internationally as the most significant CNCD.

Apart from the strain placed on the health sector, Dr. Byer Suckoo indicated that these lifestyle diseases have associated costs which are a burden to the employer and the community at large.

"In the case of the employer, for example, the absence of a worker often results in the loss of skills and, or knowledge. In terms of the community, medical care and general provision of related social support systems represent expenses on the state," she stressed.

Dr. Byer Suckoo, therefore, encouraged more companies to explore the development of wellness programmes for their workplaces.

She maintained, simple initiatives such as the implementation of childcare facilities for working parents near, or in the workplace, or gym membership for employees could go a long way in reducing workplace stress.

The Labour Minister also suggested that the social partners – government, the unions and the private sector must look closely at implementing policies which would assist with the management of stress in the workplace.

"Some workers will state that they are given too much to do and not enough time to do it in, which results in an increase in their level of stress. It is evident that policies must be implemented which will result in a work-life balance which could lead to a more productive and contented worker," Dr. Byer Suckoo concluded.??askeete@barbados.gov.bb

Author: Andr?? Skeete

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