Employers are legally required to protect employees from stress at work
This requirement covers all organisations, with those employing more than five people expected to produce a written risk assessment to help prevent stress related issues from arising in the first place.
With 15.4 million days taken off work for work-related stress, depression and anxiety in 2017/18, according to the Labour Force Survey, mental health war responsible for more lost working days than any other single health issue.
Work related stress sees people take an average of 15.8 days each off work, which makes it important for employers to not only improve the support they offer, but also put in place preventive measures.
According to the HSE, the six main areas that can lead to work-related stress are demands, control, support, relationships, role and change.
1. Help people cope
Understanding workloads are providing regular opportunities for individuals to openly discuss any challenges are good first steps to helping people cope better.
Employers can ease pressure by encouraging teams to plan well in advance for busier times of year or key projects, by hiring temporary or freelance workers for peak periods and ensuring anyone working in a particularly challenging area receives on-going support.
One of the strongest needs people have is for a sense of control, and when this is missing it can cause tension and low morale.
Ways that employers can help individuals gain a better sense of control in their work could include flexible or remote working, encouraging people to take regular breaks when they want to rather than at set times, giving people a say in decisions wherever possible, acting on staff feedback and encouraging managers to empower rather than micro-mange.
Support for people showing signs of stress can make all the difference. It's important that workers know they can talk to their manager, or someone in HR, if they are feeling stressed at work.
Employees that should be included within this are lone workers and anyone returning to work after an absence for stress or any other reason.
Relationships can have a big impact on individual wellbeing.
Managers need to be trained to promote a positive work environment, but staff also made aware of their ranges of options for discussing problems with another member of staff.
Team roles should be defines, with each person understanding their duties an responsibilities.
By agreeing clear parameters around performance, expectations and development, managers can help people feel more secure and aware of how they are expected to deliver.
Change can be unsettling for people at all levels of an organisation. Working ahead of time to communicate across teams can help to minimise the impact and reduce stress levels.
issues should be anticipated and planned for, and changes communicated openly, before they happen, so everyone has the chance to understand what is coming. Even seemingly small changes can cause ripples, so it's important to factor each one in.
By putting in place proactive, on-going measures to address all six work-related stress areas, employers could be doing much more than they realise for their organisation's future success.
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