Stress awareness month has been held annually in April, since 1992, so we have put together some tips for employers as a starting point to reduce stress in the workplace.
What is stress?
Stress is the reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them. Pressure can help to keep people motivated, however when there is too much pressure placed on them, they can become overloaded, having a serious impact on their health. Stress is not an illness, but the psychological impact can lead to conditions such as anxiety and depression.
As an initial thought, you may be thinking that stress is a negative feeling. However, stress, in moderate amounts can be a good thing as it enables us to focus our attention and quickly respond to a situation at work, such as, meeting demands for an upcoming deadline. Positive stress can soon turn to negative feelings of being overwhelmed, particularly if stress is happening in many aspects of the individual’s life (home, work, family, financial, illness).
How to deal with stress in the workplace
Over 40% of all work-related illness is caused by stress. It is therefore important that an employer takes steps to tackle the causes of work-related stress and encourage staff to seek help at their earliest opportunity.
How do you spot stress in your team?
General signs of stress; feeling overwhelmed; having racing thoughts; irritability; feeling worried, anxious or scared; trouble sleeping; lack of confidence.
Signs of stress specific to the workplace include; arriving late; absenteeism; reduced social contact; overreaction to problems; poor employee relations.
Changes in an employee’s performance may also indicate that they are feeling stressed, such as, lapses in memory; increased time in work; uncharacteristic errors; indecision or loss of motivation.
Common methods used for employers to address stress in the workplace are:
- Stress surveys
- Stress audits
- Mental health risk assessments
- Flexible working policies which can help employees improve work-life balance
- Allowing employees to work from home can reduce stress
- Provide training for managers to more effectively identify and manage stress
- Training on time management
- Improved, clear communication with employees
- Provide a ‘stress-free’ area in the workplace (e.g. sofas, outdoor benches, pool table to be used on a lunch)
- Encourage staff to stay active (encourage yoga / gym classes on a lunch break or before/after work)
- Keep moving – encourage walking meetings and breaks and avoid eating at their desk to allow a proper break
An employer must also bear in mind that an employee suffering from work-related stress may be “disabled” for the purpose of The Equality Act 2010. Taking the relevant actions to manage work-related stress early can prevent the consequences an employer may face, should an employee be protected by the act.
Where someone is likely to be covered you should also consider if there are any reasonable adjustments you could make to their role to alleviate any disadvantage faced. If you require support with this in understanding what is reasonable and when this may arise please do not hesitate to contact us.
Written by Annabelle Oliver and Jodie Hill.