International Stress Awareness Week – Top 10 Tips for Managing Work-related Stress

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), more than 11 million days are lost at work every year because of stress at work. Monday 1 November to Friday 5 November 2021 marks International Stress Awareness Week and is a good opportunity for employers to reflect on how they currently manage work-related stress and whether further steps could be taken to do so.

Definition of stress

Stress can be defined as an adverse reaction by someone to excessive pressures or other demands placed on them.

A certain amount of pressure in work can keep staff motivated and give them a sense of ambition. However, if staff become over-loaded by excessive workload or demands, they can become stressed. Other work-related causes of stress are interpersonal conflict, organisational change, poor communication, and lack of clarity as to an individual’s role in the organisation.

Work-related stress is a major cause of occupational ill health.

Identifying work-related stress

It is important that employers never make assumptions about stress, however, some key indicators can include:

  • Changes in a person’s usual mood, behaviour or how they interact with others
  • Changes in the standard of their work or focus on tasks
  • Appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn and reduced interest in tasks usually enjoyed
  • An increase in sickness absences and/or turning up late to work

Employer’s duties

Employers have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to protect employees from stress at work by carrying out a risk assessment and acting on it. Stress in itself is not considered as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, but where it leads to a mental health condition, that may meet the definition of disability. Employers should therefore recognise the need to promote a culture of good mental and physical health in the workplace and consider the following tips.

Tips for managing work-related stress

  1. Look out for indicators of stress and speak to staff members who may be dealing with stress. Have the conversation in a private place and try to identify the cause.
  2. Even if the cause of stress is not work-related, changes to the team member’s working arrangements may help to reduce some of the pressure they are experiencing.
  3. Introduce a stress management policy or mental health plan to raise awareness, highlighting the organisation’s commitment to promoting positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
  4. Provide training to managers on how to recognise work related stress and mental ill health and how to promote their own mental wellbeing and that of colleagues.
  5. Promote a culture of open communication and ask that employees raise issues if they feel they are not coping.
  6. Think about potential solutions (temporary or permanent) such as re-allocating working hours, overtime and workload.
  7. Introduce support services for staff affected or absent by reason of ill mental health – such as Employee Assistance Programmes, Occupational Health, counselling, mentors and mental-health first aiders.
  8. Conduct a regular stress survey among staff on a periodic basis and use that data to inform stress risk assessments.
  9. Encourage open, clear communication between staff, and from management.
  10. Have a zero-tolerance approach for workplace bullying, and ensure that management sets a good example.

Investing in supporting employees suffering from work-related stress can offer an element of protection in defending stress at work claims, whilst also increasing productivity, wellbeing and job satisfaction in the workforce – it’s a win-win.
If you would like to introduce a Stress and Mental Wellbeing policy in your workplace, or discuss any aspect of this blog, please contact a member of our Specialist Employment Law Team.

This update contains general information only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice.

Douglas Strang, Senior Associate: dst@bto.co.uk / 0141 221 8012
Katie Hendry, Solicitor: khe@bto.co.uk / 0141 221 8012

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