Stress. Look up the dictionary definition and you’ll see it’s essential to vehicle manufacture: pressure or tension exerted on a material object.
Try making a body panel without that.
But what happens when the pressure is exerted not on steel but on us? And how do we know when the tension experienced in the board room, the design studio or the assembly line has become too great?
That’s exactly what Jaguar Land Rover’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Steve Iley, wants to get all of us thinking – and talking - about. And he believes World Mental Health Day (10 October) is a good time to start.
“When a healthy amount of workplace pressure turns into unhealthy stress, the list of potential symptoms is long,” he says.
“Emotionally speaking, you may feel worried, anxious and overwhelmed by even relatively minor challenges.
“It can cause increased irritability, impatience and forgetfulness. People who are stressed often experience a loss of sense of humour, or a change in it.
“Stress can express itself in our behaviour. It can make us more snappy or cause us to avoid problems which need to be dealt with.
“And the symptoms can also be physical: headaches, muscle pain, dizziness, insomnia, fatigue. It can be incredibly debilitating and we have a duty to tackle it.”
What does it feel like to have stress?
Lack of self-esteem
Difficulty making decisions
Steve’s first weapon in this war on stress is to get a simple message out there. Help is available.
“We have resources in place to help colleagues who feel that they may be struggling to cope with stress.
“They are free, they are confidential and they are there for all Jaguar Land Rover colleagues, from the board of management to the design teams and colleagues working on every assembly line from Castle Bromwich to Nitra.
“We have a confidential helpline which is staffed 24/7, we have more assistance available through Occupational Health and we work with external partners on support for issues like drug and alcohol abuse, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which can be particularly relevant for colleagues who come from an Armed Services background.
“We even offer a digital app which is clinically proven to prevent stress and anxiety.
“The Jaguar Land Rover website has a whole section devoted to mental health and I’d urge all colleagues to read it, even if they are not suffering any of these issues themselves.”
What support is available to me?
Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) – a free and confidential helpline staffed 24/7, 365 days a year. Call 0800 015 5630, or visit the website
PTSD Resolution – charity for Armed Forces veterans who suffered trauma
That last point is a key part of Steve’s strategy: we need to look out for each other.
“It’s often colleagues who are in the best position to spot the warning signs,” Steve says.
“My message is that we should be looking out for each other, not ignoring those warning signs or assuming it’s the job of a manager to pick up on them.
“If we are going to tackle stress, we need to understand it. We need to recognise the symptoms in other people, and crucially we need to know how to start the conversation with someone who appears to be suffering.”
What warning signs should I be looking out for?
Lack of co-operation
Frequent complaints of tiredness
Complaints of aches and pains
Alcohol and/or drug misuse
That conversation, Steve accepts, will require a culture change which is unlikely to happen overnight.
“On the manufacturing side of the operation in particular, the culture is male-dominated. Historically and culturally, men have not been encouraged to talk about their feelings or to admit weakness.
“I want to get the message out there that it’s OK to talk about these things. In fact, it’s crucial to the ongoing success of the organisation.
“This is not just a personal crusade by me. This is part of the board of management’s agenda, to ensure that colleagues love what they do.
“It’s the right thing to do from a pastoral point of view, but also from a business perspective.
“We want to spot and nip these issues in the bud before a colleague has to go off sick, which is bad for them and bad for us as an organisation.
“Of all the colleagues who take sick leave, roughly a third are dealing with mental illness, a third have muscular-skeletal problems, and a third are facing a variety of other ailments.
“That’s pretty much the standard for all big organisations. But we don’t want to be standard – we want to beat that curve and pull together for a happier, healthier organisation.
“And for that to happen, we need to start talking to each other. Together we can have this conversation, and the right time to start it is today.”
"If we are going to tackle stress, we need to understand it. We need to recognise the symptoms in other people, and crucially we need to know how to start the conversation with someone who appears to be suffering."
Dr Steve IleyChief Medical Officer at Jaguar Land Rover
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