April is Stress Awareness Month

You can prevent, reduce and manage stress in the workplace

What’s the problem?

The rate of work-related stress, depression and anxiety has increased in recent years, and the last year has presented new challenges that have never been faced before.

According to the HSE, stress, depression or anxiety account for a huge 51% of all work-related ill health cases and 55% of all working days lost due to work-related ill health.

Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it. The earlier a problem is tackled the less impact it will have.

Recognising the signs of stress will help employers to take steps to prevent, reduce and manage stress in the workplace. The HSE provides the following advice:

If you already have a risk assessment in place, consider whether you need to re-assess the situation due to changes and challenges brought about by COVID-19.

Social distancing, working from home and all the other safeguards that have been put in place may have changed or created new stress. Stress affects people differently – what stresses one person may not affect another. Factors like skills and experience, age or disability may all affect whether an employee can cope.

Employees feel stress when they can’t cope with pressures, demands put on them and other issues.

Employers should match demands to employees’ skills and knowledge.

Six key factors to consider

Employers should assess the risks in the following areas to manage stress in the workplace. If not properly managed, they are associated with poor health, lower productivity and increased accident and sickness absence rates.

  • demands – workload, work patterns and the work environment
  • control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work
  • support – encouragement, sponsorship and resources available to workers
  • relationships – promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
  • role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles
  • change – how change (large or small) is managed and communicated

For more information visit the stress section of HSE’s website.

Workplace experts Acas also have lots of free resources to help employers, managers and staff support mental health. This includes advice, e-learning and webinars offering advice on ways to effectively manage, provide support and minimise the impacts of negative mental health in your workplace.