How do you manage stress at work?

There is a growing awareness around stress in the workplace, as employers know that healthy, happy employees contribute more to their business. How can you recognise stress in your workforce? What steps can you put in place to tackle it? Read our guide to find out more.

What is stress?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them”. This excessive pressure can cause anxiety and depression as well as other related illnesses such as heart disease, back pain and gastrointestinal illnesses.

Do I need to do anything about stress in my business?

Apart from the fact that healthier employees contribute more to your business than those that are stressed and unhappy, there is also a legal obligation to look after your staff. Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it.

Also, if one of your employees suffers from stress related ill-health and the court decides your business is responsible and could have taken steps to prevent it, you could be found to be negligent with no limit to the compensation your employee could get. It is also possible to be found guilty of unfair dismissal if you dismiss an employee because of stress (unless you can show that you acted reasonably).

What signs of stress can I look out for?

A change in behaviour is one of the key symptoms of stress. If one of your employees becomes more withdrawn, or more prone to outbursts, is suffering a loss of motivation or starts taking more time off, these can be signs of stress. Work with your management team to recognise these symptoms early and think about whether they can be linked to pressures of work. Acting early can reduce the impact of pressure and make it easier to reduce or remove the causes.

What are the main causes of stress?

It’s important to know what can cause stress, as well as how it can appear in employees, to put in place safeguards to stop situations occurring that can create stressful situations or to allow your tam to put policies in place to mitigate the effects of such situations. It doesn’t mean creating a pressure-free environment, as positive pressure can be very beneficial, but making sure your employees do not become overloaded or feel out of control.

Acas defines the main causes of stress as

  • Demands: employees often become overloaded if they cannot cope with the amount of work or type of work they are asked to do
  • Control: employees can feel disaffected and perform poorly if they have no say over how and when they do their work
  • Support: levels of sick absence often rise if employees feel they cannot talk to managers about issues that are troubling them
  • Relationships: a failure to build relationships based on good behaviour and trust can lead to problems related to discipline, grievances and bullying
  • Role: employees will feel anxious about their work and the organisation if they don’t know what is expected of them
  • Change: change needs to be managed effectively or it can lead to uncertainty and insecurity.

Employers should assess the risks in these areas to manage stress in the workplace.

Is stress a problem in your workplace? Do you have the policies in place to tackle these issues before they become a problem? Get advice from HR That Helps

Do you have a good policy in place for social media use?

Social media use is increasingly integrated into our lives –and this means that the line between business and personal use are often blurred. You must protect your business by ensuring that you have a sound policy on social media use in place for your employees.

Acas reports it is estimated that “misuse of the internet and social media by workers costs Britain’s economy billions of pounds every year”. You don’t want to risk the profitability, efficiency and reputation of your business by not having a social media policy in place.

What is social media?

Although we’ve all heard of Facebook and Twitter, social media is the term for all online channels where people can interact. These can include image-based smartphone apps such as Instagram or Snapchat, online forums and groups, business-based sites such as LinkedIn, and blogging sites.

This increasing volume of instant, uncontrolled communication can affect relationships between managers, employees and job applicants, as well as how your organisation promotes and controls their reputation.

What needs to be in a social media policy?

Your policy has to set boundaries on behaviour on social media for your managers and employees. You need to include what is and what is not acceptable for general behaviour at work, and how people should consider what they post and how it can affect others in their working environment.

The use of social media and technology in general can also distort what boundaries there are between home and work. Consider the use of the internet, emails, smart phones and social media in both work and home for your employees.

What else do I need to consider?

Recruitment – make managers aware that assessing applicants by looking at their social networking pages can be discriminatory and unfair.

Privacy – make employees aware of privacy and security settings on their social media profile. They need to make considered decisions about who from the work environment can view their personal information

Updating other policies: Social media and technology can have a far reaching influence on many of your other business policies. For example, your policy on bullying should be updated to include references to ‘cyber bullying’.

To find out more about what a social media policy should include, contact us today. You can also follow HR That Helps on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for more advice and support on HR for your business.

Need to Know More About Settlement Agreements?

A Settlement Agreement can be an ideal way to bring an end to an employment that is no longer productive to either your business or your soon-to-be former employee. Although they can be perceived negatively, if used correctly Settlement Agreements have many benefits when both parties ensure they receive legal advice throughout the process.

What is a Settlement Agreement?

A Settlement Agreement, formerly known as a Compromise Agreement, is a legally binding contract between an employer and an employee. The employee agrees to not to bring particular legal claims against their employer in return for some form of benefit.

Settlement Agreements are increasingly common in England and Wales, but they are only legally valid and enforceable if they meet certain requirements.

How should you approach a Settlement Agreement?

There are several steps you need to go through with your employee to ensure that any Settlement Agreement fulfils the legal requirements and will satisfactorily terminate the employment.

You need to:

  • Make sure that the agreement is voluntary. You both need to agree to the terms
  • Create an open discussion and negotiation
  • Ensure that your employee knows that, once the Settlement Agreement is signed, they waive their right to go to tribunal
  • Guarantee that the Settlement Agreement is confidential
  • Include a settlement figure and/or some other benefit for the employee, such as a reference.

How do you make sure your Settlement Agreement is legally valid?

In order for a Settlement Agreement to be valid and enforceable it must follow certain criteria set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996. These requirements include:

  • Putting the Settlement Agreement in writing
  • Relating the agreement to a “particular complaint” or “particular proceedings”
  • The employee receiving legal advice from a relevant independent adviser on the proposed agreement and the effect on their ability to pursue any rights before an Employment Tribunal
  • The Settlement Agreement stating that the conditions regulating Compromise Agreement/Settlement Agreements have been satisfied

The most important part of the criteria is that employees must receive legal advice from a qualified and insured independent legal adviser before they sign the Settlement Agreement.

If you want to know more about Settlement Agreements, or have an issue with an employee that may escalate to require a Settlement Agreement, talk to HR That Helps today.


Personal Relationships at Work – Have you got a policy in place?

Do you have a HR policy on personal relationships in your business? Whether it is a romantic or family relationship, it’s worth having steps in place that protect you, and the people involved, from potential risks that could harm them personally, and your company.

The commercial risk of favouritism and falsifying documents is a real one. You need to alert your managers to the risks, and make them aware of how employees may perceive (fairly or not) promotions, pay rises and job roles as a result of these relationships.

As with any relationship, there are two sides to this story that you need to consider – how to handle existing relationships within your business, and how best to protect your business should any new ones emerge.

Is it my problem?

If any relationship, romantic or otherwise, between two employees has or is likely to have an impact on working relationships, it is your business. Just thinking about these potential situations could give you a serious headache, even without a mention of a direct conflict of interest…

  • What if a manager starts seeing someone in his or her direct reporting line?
  • What are the potential implications for a father and son working together?
  • What if a new client is related to someone in your business?
  • How do you handle the fall out of failed relationship where the individuals are in the same department?

You can see already the potential for a breach of confidentiality, accusations of favouritism, sexual harassment claims, and much more.

As everyone knows, the workplace is a common place to meet potential partners. Statistics, and they vary; suggest that 40 – 56% of business professionals have had office romances. This could increase further in the future with longer working hours. Of those who started a relationship at work, nearly one third said their office romances lead to marriage. So you need to act now.

What do you need to do?

It’s worth creating a Personal Relationships at Work Policy, that details what is defined as a personal relationship, how it should be disclosed and who to, and the risks. These potential risks are then managed by setting rules of conduct in the workplace; and actions and remedies should a conflict, perceived or actual, occur.

These remedies could include moving individuals to different departments or buildings and changing aspects of management, decision-making and authority if there is a risk of the relationship interfering with the professional conduct and integrity of the business.

You should also consider running anti-sexual harassment training on a regular basis.

Do you have any policies in place with regards to personal relationships at work? Are they working for you? Let me know!

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