Work-Related Stress is a serious issue, often considered a ‘silent’ illness. You may not even know if your employees are struggling, however the effects to them personally or on business productivity have the potential to be just as damaging as any risk covered in our Toolbox Talk Series.
The HSE statistics release for 2018 showed that 57% of all working days lost to illness were attributed to work-related stress. In the last 12 months, over 600,000 workers reported suffering from stress, depression and anxiety, worsened by work.
As an employer you are not expected to diagnose or treat work-related stress, but there is a certain responsibility in terms of offering adequate support to suffering workers. If an employee reports symptoms of work-related stress, employers should be able to guide them to resources that can help combat stress, as well as encouraging them to talk to someone, be it their line manager, GP or Occupational Health Team.
The most important step in combatting work-related stress is starting the conversation. The HSE has put together a great resource which lays out six conversation templates (download it here) which can be used to develop understanding on the root causes of stress. The idea being that problems identified can be resolved, therefore limiting the amount of stress a worker is under.
Combatting Stress in the Workplace
HSE’s Talking Toolkit
The conversations cover six key areas of work design that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health, lower productivity and increased accident and sickness absence rates:
- Demands – this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment
- Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work
- Support – this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues
- Relationships – this includes 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 organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation
Following these guidelines, an employer can assess the root causes of workplace stress, and has the ability to then act on the information, reducing stress.
Shining a Light on Work-Related Stress
The video below, released by the HSE, is a case study on Workplace Stress. There are 5 videos in total offering an insight into the causes and impacts of stress, as well as advice from health professionals on how to combat stress in the workplace.
Start the Conversation
The key to managing stress within your workplace is recognising that there isn’t an easy solution, there is no quick fix for mental health. However as a manager or an employer, the most important step is opening a dialogue with employees to identify the causes of stress, and working in partnership to reduce stress triggers and build an adequate support system for those most at risk. The HSE and other third sector organisations have been researching the causes and impacts of stress within the workplace, compiling many useful resources over the years, which may aid your organisation and can be accessed on the links below.
- The HSE’s Go Home Healthy Campaign has lots of great information and resources on how to protect your workers from developing work-related stress.
- Employer’s should also take the opportunity to download their Talking Toolkit, which features the conversation templates, and stress identifying guidelines mentioned earlier.
- Mind’s guide to stress and how to manage it
- Mind’s free Wellness Action Plans are an easy, practical way of helping people to support their own mental health at work
- Heads Together and Mind’s website, Mental Health at Work brings together resources, training, information and tools to make workplace wellbeing a priority