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 If one of your employees becomes more withdrawn, or more prone to outbursts, is suffering a loss of motivation or starts taking more time off, these can be signs of stress.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

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