One of the essential
factors in successfully managing work–life balance is the ability to reduce and
control stress. Stress is undoubtedly one of the biggest problems faced by the
modern workforce. It is also becoming an increasingly worrying problem for
employers. In this article we review stress in the workplace, the current legal
attitude, and what individuals and employers can do to minimise stress and its
damaging consequences.Stress and the workplace Stress is on the increase across
the western world. Recent surveys in the US by the American Psychological
Association indicate that about 43% of adults suffer adverse health effects due
to stress,  and that between 75-90% of
visits to a doctor are stress-related. A similar story is playing out across
the developed world. Here are some statistics from the UK: 70% of managers
think work-related stress has an adverse effect on their home lives and
therefore impacts on their work–life balance. In the UK there are nearly
170,000 claims for stress-related illness and injury every year: 27,000 people
take time off work each day as a result of stress. (The situation is even worse
in the US, where the Workers’ Compensation Scheme, an insurance scheme for
work-related health problems, is regularly inundated with stress related
claims. Massive payouts are becoming more and more common.) The British Heart
Foundation has indicated that stressful jobs increase the risk of coronary
heart disease by more than 50% in men and by more than 70% in women compared to
less stressful jobs. Although workplace-induced stress affects employees first
and foremost, employers are beginning to realise how hard the consequences can
hit their bottom line. The rise in legal claims is just one reason for this. In
the UK, for instance, the Health & Safety Executive calculated that in 1998
alone, 90 million working days were lost due to stress-related illness.  Businesses sit up and take notice when they
realise that this amounts to a loss of about £5.2 billion.  Positive and negative stress However, stress
can also be a positive force. It can stimulate you to work harder and increase
your focus for short periods of time. However, negative stress is more common
and can adversely affect your health and performance. The key then is to find a
balance between having enough stress to improve performance and ensuring that
the level of stress does not impact negatively on performance and well-being.
There is therefore an optimal point on a stress curve as shown in the following
diagram