HR Management DimensionsReflectionsStress or Strain

The Humber Bridge and River – but where are the ships?

Photo of the Humber Bridge

I have crossed the Humber Bridge many times when visiting my parents and/or clients. It is always an impressive sight as you see the whole bridge in the distance and then drive along the bridge with a panoramic view up and down river

The Humber Bridge is 1.38 miles long and the carriageway is up to 30 metres above the water level. At one time, it was the longest single span bridge in the world and is a remarkable feat of engineering but there is one thing missing …

Missing Ships

Rarely have I seen a ship or sailing boat on the river despite the width of the river. That changed recently when we decided to visit the Foreshore car park in our quest to buy an ice cream. The car park is quite close to the tower on the Yorkshire side of the river. It was a hot, sunny and windy day – our ice creams soon started to melt and the wind seemed determined to blow them away faster than we could eat them. Suddenly, I saw two ships coming up the river and then a third some distance behind them. That was a historical moment for us and worthy to be recorded in a photo! Hence the next picture. I presume the ships were on the last stage of their journey to the port of Goole and then a new insight came to me.

While looking at the ships and trying to take a photo, I was drawn to the waves and the swell of the river. The waves seemed to be crashing into each other as they were rebuffed by, presumably, the underlying mud or sand banks. The river has relatively narrow navigable channels and an average depth of just 6.5m . It appears shallower when you travel across the bridge and see the extent of the mud/sand banks across much of the width of the river.

Entranced by the buffeting of the waves, I missed the opportunity to take a photo of the ships passing by the bridge. My wife showed more presence of mind and provided me with the picture opposite

A few weeks earlier, I had been looking for a venue for an event and went to the Country Park Hotel and Restaurant. What a view of the whole bridge – we were virtually sitting the foot of the tower and could see the whole span of the bridge and the entire height of the two main pillars.

Relevance to HR Management

Why write about this on a blog site called HR Management Dimensions? Well, bridges and other structures have to be stressed in their construction to perform correctly in the environmental conditions they must endure. Today, we use the word stress frequently but perhaps forget that stress can be a postive factor. In contrast, strain is rarely so – strain will cause an individual or a structure to underperform or even collapse if the pressures are overbearing.

All of us in management and many other walks of life need to gain a better understanding of the signs of stress and ways in which an individual can be helped to stand back from those pressures and reassess what are the priorities and better ways forward. In some organisations, one can quickly sense the strain by the language, tone and behaviour of individuals in a team or across the company. In 2017/18, stress, depression or anxiety led to 15.4 million lost working days. Stress disorders lead to longer periods of absence compared to musculoskeletal issues.

Avoid Stress becoming Strain

Strain is rather like the mud banks on the river. You can become stuck and in trying to free yourself you can become more trapped. Often individuals facing significant stress at work or at home/work find it difficult to take remedial action as matters just get out of hand. Savvy managers will intervene to help those colleagues and avoid others becoming upset by what they see and experience happening to those around them. It takes quite a while to get the balance right but only a short time for strain to display itself in a snap reaction or a breakdown in morale or personal injury to an individual(s).

You may find the ACAS publication Stress and anxiety at work: personal or cultural?’ of help.
The following video contains more footage and photos of the Humber Bridge from different angles and events.

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