You need to establish if stress is a problem in your workplace by carrying out a risk assessment – either collectively or at individual level. Whilst systems should be in place to manage personal differences, you should give priority to collective protection measures over individual ones.
The HSE Management Standards, otherwise known as ‘hazards’, cover the six primary sources of stress at work: demands, control, support, relationships, role and change. The standards incorporate a number of features to help reduce the causes of stress which, if not properly managed, would produce negative outcomes for staff.
Top Tips for Managing Stress in Your Workplace
- Demands. Ensure there are sufficient resources available for employees to do their job. You can support your staff by helping them prioritise or renegotiate deadlines and adjust their work patterns to cope with peaks.
- Control. Giving staff some flexibility or control over their own work significantly helps to reduce potential stress. Examples may include the sequence in which your staff carry out their work, their ability to use their own initiative or working creatively with people / tasks. Aim to reduce repetitive duties within workloads and give people the opportunity to participate in meetings.
- Support. Give support and encouragement, even if things go wrong, and encourage staff to share their concerns about work-related stress at an early stage. Hold regular meetings and one-to-one talks to discuss pressures. Ask your employees how they would like to access your support, such as an ‘open door’ policy or an agreed time to discuss emerging pressures. Often, a combination of internal and external support works best. Charities such as MIND can offer staff free advice.
- Relationships. Work in partnership with your staff to ensure that bullying and harassment don’t become an issue. Create a culture where members of the team trust each other and encourage them to recognise the individual contributions of other team members.
- Role. Make sure your staff have a clearly defined role. If your company is going through change, check that everyone understands their new roles and individual tasks.
- Change. Change itself is not a bad thing. However, it is essential to have a structure in place so employees are informed and consulted, particularly if redundancy is a possibility.
While stress isn’t necessarily an illness in itself, mental or physical illness can develop if stress is prolonged and / or excessive. Stress is a serious workplace matter which has profound legal consequences for employers. Take steps to manage it now to protect your staff and stay legally compliant.
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