Written by SAM DOW

Mental health, stress and wellbeing are all words that we are hearing more frequently and they are finally beginning to receive the recognition that they deserve. For an employer, it can be daunting to know how to recognise and manage an employee who is suffering with work-related stress – be reassured; we’re here to guide you on how to take control and how you can protect your employees against stress. Below we have answered the most common questions we hear from employers when talking about work-related stress.

Q. What responsibility do I have as an employer when it comes to work-related stress?

Under UK law, you have a ‘duty of care’ to protect the health, safety and welfare of all employees while at work and you also have to assess the risks arising from hazards at work including work-related stress.

Q. What causes work-related stress?

It’s important you understand what can cause stress in the workplace. If you can identify any areas that need reviewing before it affects your employee’s health then this is the ideal scenario.

The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) have identified the top six main areas that can cause work-related stress if they are not managed correctly:

  • The demands of the job
  • The control an employee has over their work
  • The support they receive from managers and colleagues
  • Relationships in the workplace
  • The employee’s role in the organisation
  • Organisational change and how it’s managed

 Q. What impact can work-related stress have on my business?

If your employees are feeling stressed and its left un-recognised it can lead to:

  • Higher staff turnover
  • Increased sickness absence
  • Decreased motivation, productivity and performance
  • Employee complaints and grievances

Q. What warning signs should I be looking out for?

The signs of work-related stress can be physical, psychological and behavioural, and it’s vital that you know how to spot them as an employer as work-related stress is your responsibility.

An employee suffering with stress might act differently and you may notice that they are taking more time off, frequently turning up late, not appearing as motivated or committed and generally acting differently to their usual selves. They may act nervous, irrational, sensitive, and seem withdrawn.

Q. What can I do to prevent work-related stress?

As an employer, it’s important you assess the risks of work-related stress in your workplace and take action to protect your employees.

  • Ensure you are communicating with your staff by having regular reviews, appraisals or 1-2-1s. This will help your employees feel supported. They are more likely to open up if you give them a forum to discuss any problems they might have including discussions about workload, training needs etc.
  • Give your staff an opportunity to voice their concerns anonymously. This could be done through staff surveys and even a wellbeing questionnaire.
  • Always encourage your staff to use their full quota of annual leave. Be aware that the statutory minimum amount of annual holiday entitlement is 28 days (pro-rated for part time staff).
  • Consider management training. People management is key and as we know that management style can have a direct impact on employee wellbeing and morale – it’s worth identifying if your managers have any training needs. Help your managers help your people and consider introducing training to help increase awareness of the signs of mental health problems so it better equips managers on how to cope with any employees struggling with stress. It is common that managers fear they are going to say the wrong thing if they approach the subject of mental health – training will help teach them how to start the conversation, how to recognise the warning signs and how to find the right resources available.
  • Working patterns – Offering flexible working to your team can bring many advantages to your staff and company. Read more here https://www.realityhr.co.uk/blog/flexible-working-is-it-worth-it/
  •  Wellbeing / self-help encouragement – you could consider offering short courses on relaxation, a yoga class or exercise class once a week. Advertise hints and tips on healthy eating and how to achieve a good work/life balance.

We can help guide you through the implementation of Wellbeing initiatives including policies and training that will reassure your staff that you care about their health and wellbeing.  Get in touch today if you want to talk about how we can support your efforts to combat workplace stress by emailing: info@realityhr.co.uk or calling: 01256 328428.