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Work-related stress is the first cause of all lost working days, costing 240 euro billion a year, warns the EU

Work-related stress is the first cause of all lost working days, costing 240 euro billion a year, warns the EU

Not only it is a complication of office daily life, it also implies a remarkable loss in productivity and revenues. The European Union tries to fix the situation with the biggest campaign ever realized. Andor: “Adverse effects on the overall performance of companies”

Not only it is a complication of office daily life, it also implies a remarkable loss in productivity and revenues. The European Union tries to fix the situation with the biggest campaign ever realized. Andor: “Adverse effects on the overall performance of companies”

stress

There is a disease in Europe, responsible for 60 percent of all lost working days. A disease that costs 240 euro billion a year (about a half for health treatments) and causes a loss in productivity amounting to 136 euro billion. That disease is called stress. Often minimised or considered a simple “inconvenience” complicating office daily life, stress is actually something not to be underestimated, for both individuals and the general economic system. It is the second work-related health problem in Europe, after musculoskeletal diseases. In the last nine years, about 28 percent of European workers have been exposed to psychological risks affecting their wellness.

Workers affected by stress find it difficult to concentrate, make more mistakes and are subject to more frequent accidents at work. Reducing stress at work helps to create a healthy work environment in which workers feel valued, where the workplace culture is more positive, and, consequently, business productivity improves. “Work-related stress not only takes a high toll on employees’ well-being, but also adversely affects the overall performance of European companies,” said László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. “Prevention tools exist and they should better be implemented,” he added.

That is the scope of the “Healthy Workplaces Manage Stress” campaign, launched today by the European Agency for Safety at Health at Work, presented by the European Commission. The campaign, “the biggest ever in Europe if not worldwide”, aims at raising awareness about the psychological, physical and social risks linked to stress at work. Four euro million will be invested in the campaign, two euro million for two years.

The campaign aims to help employers’ and workers’ representatives, managers and workers to identify and manage stress and psychological, physical and social risks in the workplace. It will involve more than thirty European countries, not only EU Member States, and hundreds of organizations. All organizations are invited to support this action, organizing seminars and handing out informative material. Participating companies will be followed closely in the campaign, for creating a healthier work environment: from the definition of targets and messages to be transmitted, to the analysis of the outcomes, through the planning and implementation of the campaign. A key activity will be the European Good Practice Award, to be launched on 15 April 2014. Applications are encouraged from all European organisations who are successfully implementing measures to reduce extreme strain to workers.

Addressing stress and psychosocial risks is one of the challenges covered by the forthcoming EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2014-2020, due to be presented in June.

Letizia Pascale

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