Organisational changes and increasing pressure to perform triggered a number of long-term, stress-related illnesses in Canon Denmark. This not only caused problems for business managers and human resources, but increased the workload on other employees. The HR Director and her team started to develop a policy to reduce stress in the workplace. While doing the research for this policy, Denmark's government strengthened the anti-smoking legislation and the works council was demanding changes to a number of existing policies.
As the team's understanding of workplace stress improved, they realised that a specific stress reduction policy was not enough. They started to examine not only their own, but European and global Canon policies.
The solution was to collect existing workplace policies, as well as unwritten practices, in line with an overall Health & Wellbeing objective. Their experience in managing stress had convinced them to focus on prevention, rather than treatment of problems; a shift from reactive to proactive management. This was also an opportunity to develop action-based policies. The new umbrella policy was launched in August 2007 and has since then been updated. It covers a number of workplace topics, such as:
• Work-life balance
• Aging workforce
• Health and safety
• Stress management
• Respect and tolerance
• Alcohol and substance abuse
• Nutrition and exercise
The initial focus was stress management for all employees. Canon Denmark partnered with its employer organisation to develop a series of seminars for employees on the topic. This was reinforced by an intranet site, as well as specific coaching and training for all managers. The programmes were developed to provide greater clarity about responsibilities and creating a common language and understanding of stress. Stress has now become a legitimate issue, and employees have become more open in discussing it.
In order to keep the policy live and actionable, new topics and initiatives are added as needed. For example, the works council wanted to address the aging workforce issue. Even though there was an agreement on the topic, HR needed to balance this with both cost and managing the risk of age discrimination. In February, 2008, a section was added relating to coaching and discussions about work-life balance, targeting employees aged 58 or above.
• Costs had to be kept low
• Striking a balance between targeting a specific problem and being relevant to the whole workforce
• Keeping the programme's momentum as the immediate problems around stress decreased
• Increased focus on soft (i.e. non-cash) benefits
• Decreased long term absence rates
• Increased managers' competence coaching and leadership
• Allowed HR to focus on strategic workforce planning and development issues
• Developed HR and management competences
• Structured approach to dealing with stress