STRESS AND SAFETY
Starting some 20 years ago I collaborated many years with an industrial company world-famous for its safety management. Together we not only developed very interesting interventions on stress and safety, but this collaboration had a major and enlightening impact on my thinking, not just about safety management but also on corporate stress management in general.
In 70% to 90% of cases of accidents and incidents, badly managed stress plays a major role. Badly managed stress is the main reason why intelligent people do stupid/unsafe things. High negative stress forces our brain into a primitive “emergency” mode, which undermines reflection.
In the last 5 years it became very evident to me that multitasking and being always on, always connected became major safety hazard. The crux of the matter is that our conscious brain cannot multitask and that trying to do it anyway makes us very inefficient and dangerous at work, in the car, on the street and at home.
Being always on, always connected puts our brain in a reactive mode, making proactive thinking –a keystone for safety- all but impossible. Moreover, it creates a continuous, low level of background stress that undermines our brain.
If you think that stress management is for the weak, that stress management is only about health and absenteeism, that is the responsibility of the HR, health departments and employee assistance programs, you are very very wrong.
Stress management is about the smartest, fastest and most sustainable way to reach your strategic goals.
If safety is among your goals, you have one more excellent reason to manage stress well, because there is very well documented and strong link between stress and safety.
Stress is great: the harder you pull you bow, the faster your arrow reaches your goal… but the resilience of your bow determines how hard you can pull your bow! Your resilience defines how much stress you can handle in a healthy, sustainable, safe way.
The resilience of your company, your department, your team determines how fast and how safe you will reach your strategic goals and if your endeavor will be sustainable.
To get the best your brain (and the rest of your body), you have to be able to assess and manage your own stress well. As managers, to get the best of your brainworkers, you need to be able to assess their stress-signals and manage their stress. Moreover, you need to create a working environment where people experience an optimal and safe stress balance.
In contrast to most management fads, Stress Management has a very solid scientific basis. Between 150 and 200 really scientific research articles are published each year on the subject “Stress at work”. From that research we learn that the Return on Investment of stress management varies from 1,5 to 13 and beyond.