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Eliminating stress from Label Apeel

By Helen Dugdale.

Stuart Kellock explains why he's working to eliminate stress from Label Apeel. 

Stress is a serious thing so when someone says they have eliminated it from their business that is something worth listening to. Alas, I have not created some idyllic Nirvana where work is a wonderful thing that makes people glow and feel permanently positive and we all wander around in a state of semi-comatose smiling giddiness. However, what we have eliminated is the 'S' word.

The word stress comes with a whole load of baggage. It is used widely and loosely for a whole load of different scenarios. I heard a woman in a coffee shop express her feelings for the speed of the staff serving as “Well stressing her out.” Similarly I have met people who have been through the most horrendous personal crises and been pushed to the brink of utter despair be described as “a bit stressed.” This loosness of language presents an issue for businesses like mine who need to deal with the potential harm that true stress can create. 

The Health and Safety Executive defines stress as:

 "Stress is defined as 'the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them'.

Stress - a blue light word

Here is my issue, how do I tell the difference between people who are truly stressed and those who are under a bit of short term pressure above what they are used to? Our solution was to ban the word stress, or not quite ban it but to make sure that people understood that stress was a blue light word that would kick in a process to help that person to get back to a position where they were no longer stressed. Inside of these processes were simple things like extra breaks, regular meetings and the option to change working hours right through to company financed counselling.

When we first introduced this, the transition period was a little bumpy, and we did get some rather perplexed looks from colleagues who had inadvertently used the ‘S’ word to describe some minor concern and were now being given a cup of tea, a biscuit and the phone number of a councillor. However after a couple of minor hiccups people got used to the idea and we started to talk in terms of pressure. Now pressure is a good thing. Pressure has a spectrum that we all now use happily when we are busy and the phone is ringing off the wall we have high pressure and we all understand that this is a good thing, for a short time. Similarly there are times when we have low pressure periods and similar to high pressure these are also good for short periods, they are an opportunity to catch our breath do some tidying up and take stock.

About medium pressure

As a business owner the place I want most of my colleagues most of the time is at medium pressure. What is medium pressure? Medium pressure is that level of pressure that makes you want to achieve the best you can in a timescale that is reasonable and that when you get to the end of your task or day you feel proud and happy with what you have achieved.  You don’t feel emotionally and physically drained, but similarly you don’t feel like someone who has just woken up.

So do we still have stress in the company? Yes of course we do, people’s lives outside of the business go on and we cannot influence their home or relationship situations and sometimes that spills in to work. However what we can now be very sure of is, that if someone comes to us and says they are stressed we will react in a positive and proactive way to help that person manage the situation they have, whether that situation is in or outside of the organisation.