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Preventing stress, fatigue and bullying

Employers have a responsibility to maintain a healthy workplace.

Our personal mental resources can only stretch so far before our mental and physical health suffers because of stress, fatigue and bullying. 


Employers have a responsibility to maintain a healthy workplace

The challenges of modern workplaces, with their changing work patterns and new technologies, can put a lot of people under more stress.

Unhealthy work relationships (which can be related to bullying) also put people under a lot of stress. Non-work factors also affect stress levels at work, with financial stress a major contributor.

Whether work-related or not, chronic stress can lead to more illness and a higher absentee and turnover rate, as well as lower engagement and productivity.

The Mental Health Foundation has several resources to deal with stress, including financial stress, as well as information on how stress can affect our health

WorkSafe also has several factsheets about managing types of stress.


Fatigue is a major workplace risk and can be life-threatening. Even if fatigue is caused by non-work factors (such as a person's home life), workplaces must consider ways to reduce the risk of fatigue.

That should include helping employees manage their situation better (eg, looking at why they’re not getting enough sleep).

The ACC website has more fatigue management information as does WorkSafe, including this quick guide to understanding and managing fatigue, particularly for shift workers.  


Workplace bullying is a problem for many workplaces and can take multiple forms.

Some are easy to spot, such as personal attacks and put downs. However, others are not, such as attempts to undermine credibility, performance or confidence, and isolating someone from the team or a piece of work.

Also, some behaviours that could be workplace bullying could actually be usual workplace practices (eg, having a high workload, micro-management, being kept out of the loop).

The commonly used Safe Work Australia definition of workplace bullying is:

“Repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety”.

So, the key is to detect an ongoing pattern to the behaviour, and/or if it’s directed at one person or group of people.

Poorly managed organisations allow bullies to thrive. The cost can be counted through lower morale and productivity, higher absenteeism and turnover, litigation and negative reputation.

Workplace cultures with good leadership have a culture of openness, support, respect, civility and valuing of diversity. They prevent bullying through an enforced zero-tolerance policy.

Worksafe New Zealand has created workplace bullying guidelines to help businesses identify and deal with bullying, and to understand the consequences of not doing so.


A lot of research is going on into what creates positive work environments, and the benefits of doing so. Here are just a few examples:

Determinants for positive mental health and wellbeing at work: (Lindberg, P., Karlsson, T., & Vingård, E. (2015, August)).

Well-Being – Productivity and Happiness at Work: Ivan Robertson and Cary Cooper, 2011 

Psychosocial Safety Climate and Better Productivity in Australian Workplaces: Costs, Productivity, Presenteeism, Absenteeism: Safe Work Australia, 2016.


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