This guide covers a range of information which includes:
Pressure at work is normal and in most cases does not cause a problem; in fact it can be healthy. However, where pressure becomes excessive it can lead to stress at work. Stress at work occurs when an employee feels they are under too much mental or emotional pressure. The cause may be due to too many demands, too little time, unreasonable targets or indeed, an unreasonable line manager. There may be pressure at home and work load adds pressure. Whatever the reason, work is one of the main causes of stress in the UK.
Every individual will react to stress in a different way. When under pressure some people may try to keep it to themselves, others behaviour may change or they may become aggressive. A good indication of stress becoming a problem is when an employee starts acting differently to the way in which is normal for them. Absences from work, poor time keeping, becoming argumentative or nervous, mood swings are all signs that stress levels are high.
There are many reasons why active steps should be taken to prevent employees from suffering workplace stress apart from the fact that it is an employer’s general duty of care to take reasonable care for the health and safety of employees in the workplace. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations1999; employers are required to undertake risk assessments for health hazards; stress is considered a health hazard and therefore the employer is obliged to take reasonable steps to control the risk.
Stress at work may lead to poor performance and productivity; increase the risk of human error, increase in sickness absence and high staff turnover. This in turn would lead to affecting the wider team and be costly to the employer.
Audit/Risk Assessment - Employers should ensure that a stress audit is carried out on all aspects of its business. This is to ensure that, so far as reasonably practicable, it does not expose any employees to unnecessarily high stress levels in its work practices and work environment. This audit should then be reviewed on a periodic basis.
Mental Health/Stress at Work Policy - It is advisable to have a stress at work policy within the Employee Handbook. Not only does this promote a positive attitude to mental health in the workplace, but helps to create a working environment that proactively supports employees who may become unwell.
Communication - Employees should be encouraged to talk to a team member or their line manager if they are experiencing stress, so that measures can be taken to prevent the problem escalating. Any conversations of this nature should be held in private. Team members or line managers should be patient and try to remain open minded whilst thinking about potential solutions to ease pressure. Offering a confidential counselling service outside the business may also be helpful to the employee, especially in the case where stress is originating from pressures at home.
Training - Managers may need training so that they are not only able to recognise stress or mental health issues but can also handle each situation appropriately. There are many mental health issues which may need addressing in different ways.
Work Schedule - The working day may need to accommodate more work breaks, or breaks that are taken when needed rather than at the same time each day. Is it possible to change the working day to start earlier, or finish later? Or could they work from home? Does the employee require more time away from work; extend additional paid or unpaid leave?
Role at Work - Does the employee’s role need reviewing? Is it possible to re-assign some of the duties or maybe discuss a different role within the workplace? Do they need further training or support from a mentor? Regular one to one meetings may help alleviate problems.