Stress Awareness & Management

Stress is a recognised illness and one the most common occupational diseases in the UK.  The term “stress” is often misunderstood, and therefore often misused, but the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as:

The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them. 

There is a clear distinction between “pressure,” which is part and parcel of normal working life, and “stress”.  A little bit of pressure can be positive and is known to increase productivity and efficiency in most people; stress however is always negative and proven to have a detrimental impact on work and health.

A major problem employers face when dealing with stress at work is that it can be caused by a variety of factors, some of which may be work related and others to do with personal issues. However, there are recognised causes of work related stress, including:

  • An unreasonable work load.
  • Too slow or too fast a pace of work.
  • Long or unsociable hours.
  • Monotonous, repetitive or boring work.
  • Lack of supervision/management.
  • Poor working relations with colleagues, manager etc.
  • Bullying, harassment.
  • Lack of job prospects/development opportunities.
  • The working environment (layout, noise, temperature, housekeeping etc.)
  • Client/customer relations.

Managers must ensure that stress related issues are included as part of the risk assessment process and to assist, the HSE have produced a set of ‘stress management standards’ which should be considered.  The standards target six key areas which can often cause work related stress – managers need to be familiar with these known stressors and take action to prevent them becoming a concern.

  1. Demands – Can employees cope with the demands of the job?
  2. Control – Do employees have control over the way they work?
  3. Support – Do employees receive adequate support from their colleagues, supervisors and the employer?
  4. Relationships – Is there a positive working environment without any unacceptable behaviour, such as conflicts or bullying?
    Are there proper procedures to deal with such behaviour?
  5. Role – Do employees understand their role and responsibilities?
  6. Change – Is organisational change effectively managed and clearly communicated to employees?

The most suitable course of action to follow will depend on the specific issues which are causing the stress in each individual case.  However, potential steps managers could consider include:

  • Restructuring work so that the workload or other demands are reduced.
  • Providing additional staffing, for short or long-term projects.
  • Re-deploying employees to tasks more suited to their skills/experience.
  • Providing additional information, instruction and training for staff so that they can develop new skills, improve productivity, efficiency etc.
  • Ensuring staff have some say over the way they work.
  • Ensuring job roles and responsibilities are clearly defined.
  • Reviewing procedures to deal with unacceptable behaviour, e.g. bullying.
  • Promoting working groups which provide a discussion forum and support to employees.
  • Encourage employees to make use of the professional counselling services.

Unfortunately there is still a considerable amount of stigma attached to the term ‘stress’ which makes some people reluctant to talk about it but it is a serious issue and employees must not suffer in silence.   Staff have a responsibility for their own health and safety at work and therefore for their part should:

  • Voice concerns if they are experiencing a stress related problem – it is not a sign of weakness.
  • Assist the employer in implementing any measures designed to tackle the causes of stress.
  • Regularly read health and safety communications and provide feedback.
  • Attend meetings, discussion groups and workshops which are intended as a means of consultation to plan initiatives, review ideas etc.
  • Support colleagues who are experiencing any stress related problems.

The team at The Compliance Group can advise clients on all aspects of stress management, including bespoke stress policies and training.

Contact one of our advisors
to find out more about how we could help your business.