15 November 2016

Tackling stress in the workplace - Advice for PCS members working in Universal Credit Operations.

PCS policy is to try and work with our employer to find immediate solutions in order to bring down pressure levels and to avoid long term health problems that can result from sustained periods of stress.

What to do if you feel stressed at work

1. Stress is not a personal weakness, nor should it be regarded as your fault.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as your employer, has a duty of care to protect your health and safety and ensure that your job and working environment do not cause or contribute to ill health.

2. Try to identify what is causing the pressures.
Stress can be caused by the nature of the work environment. Factors can include noise, temperature, ventilation, humidity, lighting levels, seating posture and poor ergonomic desk arrangements. See your team leader or workplace union health and safety representative if you need a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessment. Organisational changes can be a cause of stress.

Members in Universal Credit operations have experienced:
Uncertainty about job security for staff on fixed term contracts. Disruption to planned changes and scheduling relating to workload and telephony forecasting. Job design with changing  and varied skills sets for the case manager, account developer, telephony and team leader roles. Inadequate resources and training. Accessibility issues with the Department's IT systems. Unclear or lack of communications. Unrealistic performance expectations. Conflict between excessive working hours and work life balance.

3. Don't ignore the issues - they will not go away.
The DWP and your PCS union can work together in order to identify and tackle the causes of stress on an individual, office and organisational level.Talk to your trade union representative in confidence and get their support in securing improvements. It might not just only be you who is experiencing pressure from the same causes. Talk to your team leader, either yourself or with the help of your trade union representative. The DWP has policy and procedures which help tackle stress related issues and identify additional support for staff where needed.

4. If you are worried about the effect of stress on your health, go and see your GP.
Talk to your team leader and  your trade union representative. Don't be tempted to put your health and well being at risk. Ensure that you take agreed reasonable ad hoc breaks away from your desktop visual display unit (VDU) and take your scheduled lunch and 15 minute breaks. Be aware of possible changes in behaviour in both you and your team colleagues that stress can cause, for example poor sleeping patterns or feelings of frustration or upset. In more serious cases where work pressure and stress cause or contribute to ill health, this may be reported by the individual affected as a workplace accident under the DWP Health and Safety policy and procedures.

5. If you need help completing a sources at  stress at work questionnaire or a stress reduction plan then talk to your team leader. You can also get help and support from your trade union representative.

The following links from the DWP intranet provide further guidance on the DWP Stress at Work policy, procedures, sources of stress at work questionnaire and stress reduction plan.
http://intralink/1/corp/sites/hr/lifeevents/problems/wellbeing/tools/forms/DWP_D041873.asp

The following link from the DWP Intranet provide further guidance on the  DWP Health and Safety policy, procedure and accident report forms.
http://intralink/1/corp/sites/hr/nonpolicy/ohsd/guidance/accidents/index.asp#TopOfPage

For confidential counselling and advice contact Core Care services on 0800 028 8763. You can also contact the PCS union for stress counselling and advice for members on 0161 836 9383. For the latest union news and information in DWP go to www.pcs.org.UK - Please take care to read an external internet link in your own time.