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Increasing awareness of work related stress

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Written by: SafeWorkforce
4th November

This year many of us have faced additional stress, whether it's stress at home or work related stress. Employers need to be aware of the pressure their employees are under and recognise when they may need help.

Causes of stress at work

There are many causes of stress, one of which is employment issues that can cause work related stress.
According to the HSE in 2018/19 work related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 54% of all working days lost in the UK. The main causes of this are reported to be:

  • Workload (44%)
  • Other (21%)
  • Lack of support (14%)
  • Violence, threats or bullying (13%)
  • Changes at work (8%)

If left unmanaged, stress can reduce staff morale and motivation, cause higher staff turnover and lead to employee burnout

In addition to the above causes, it’s also important to recognise other common causes of stress your employees may be facing, such as relationship problems, family issues, financial difficulties and illness/health concerns.

There are many things that employers and line managers can do to support their employees or direct reports who may be affected by workplace stress. The first step is to recognise that stress can affect staff at all levels in the business and that it affects everybody differently.

Signs of stress

It is important to spot signs that a person may be suffering from stress. If under stress on a long-term basis, people are more susceptible to serious health issues such as insomnia, high blood pressure and heart disease.

As many people are currently working from home, symptoms can be harder to spot. However, some to look out for include low energy, frequent infections, and behaving out of character (such as sudden outbursts of anger or irritability, behaviour that appears irrational or illogical, or the employee seeming quieter than normal and withdrawing socially).

What can employees do to help themselves, if they believe they are affected by stress?

  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Inform and discuss with their line manager, if possible

Seek medical support from their GP if they feel this is necessary, including being prescribed medication and undertaking talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy, where appropriate.

What can employers do to help staff manage stress?

  • Manage workloads effectively
  • Have clear job descriptions outlining the remit of all roles and expectations/key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Conduct performance reviews/appraisals regularly and give written feedback as appropriate
  • Take action to deal with conflict in the workplace quickly, if they become aware of issues, for example allegations of bullying and harassment
  • Deal with grievances and disciplinary issues including performance management promptly
  • Train and induct staff appropriately for their role
  • Have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in place to refer staff to if they are believed to be struggling, so that they can access counselling services free of charge and confidentially.
  • Appoint a workplace ‘mental health champion’ who staff can speak to informally
  • Conduct stress risk assessments identifying stress triggers and control measures

Consider referring to an Occupational Health Therapist for an Occupational Health Assessment where you have an employee on long term sick leave (more than four weeks) due to stress or related mental health issues. Alcumus SafeWorkforce partners with Occupational Health provider, Valentines for specialist support in this area.

Please contact the Alcumus SafeWorkforce HR team if you would like to find out more about managing stress in the workplace or have any queries on [email protected].

Our webinar “Looking after your employees’ wellbeing this winter” will cover how employers can help their employees with mental health issues such as stress. Register here.

Do you need support implementing wellbeing support in your business? Our HR experts can help

SafeWorkforce Support

  • Create a culture where staff feel confident/supported to talk about their mental health - communicate, strategize, invest and have policy – check in! model healthy behaviours.
  • Ensure colleagues are confident in how to have a conversation about mental health – mental health and wellbeing training, have mental health first aiders, ensure policy documents reference mental health support.
  • Offer flexibility and be inclusive - Ask colleagues to be patient and understanding with one another as they adapt. Trust them and assume the best. They are relying on you and will remember how you treated them during times of vulnerability.