managing employee stress at work

Recognising work related stress and how to manage it

Stress in the workplace can affect every aspect of a business, from absences to relationships. As an employer it is crucial you are able identify the signs of stress. This will result in a happier, healthier and ultimately more productive work force.

There are many different factors which can affect employee stress levels within the workplace, including;

  • the demands of the job
  • having an understanding of their role and what is expected of them
  • support from managers and colleagues
  • relationships at work

As a manager or employer, it is important to consider how the above factors are affecting your employees. For example, monitor the demands you are putting on employees in their role, and consider what kind of support you can offer them if they are struggling. It might be as simple as letting them know they can come to you with any problems, creating a supportive and trusting atmosphere.

By keeping the above factors in mind, you will often be able to take steps which can prevent stress from arising in the first place. But how do you know if an employee is suffering from stress if they don’t come to you?

Identifying stress in the workplace

There are various ways to identify stress as everyone experiences it in different ways. Factors include:

  • an employee’s change of behaviour
  • becoming more withdrawn, short-tempered or emotional than they have been previously
  • weight change
  • a drop in their standards of work
  • increasing lateness or absence levels

If issues are not dealt with, or an employee does not get the required support, a business can be affected by;

  • high staff turnover
  • increased absences and long term sickness levels
  • low productivity and efficiency
  • risk of constructive unfair dismissal or discrimination claims

Employers have a legal duty to assess the risks in these areas to manage stress in the workplace and ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees.

Managing stress in the workplace

Many people, both employees and employers, find it difficult to speak about stress, as it can be a sensitive issue and there is unfortunately still a stigma around it. However, it is best to tackle the issue early, to prevent it from escalating and becoming more serious in the long run. You might start the process by holding an informal meeting to discuss the issues and identify ways you can move forward.

If the stress if work-related, you might then develop an action plan that includes:

  • identifying the problem
  • proposing solutions
  • agreeing actions to be taken to achieve the solutions
  • a review date of the plan to see if it has achieved its aim

Finally, reducing work related stress can be hugely beneficial to you as an employer. This will create;

  • a healthier and happier place at work
  • improved performance and more productive staff
  • reduced absence levels
  • reduced workplace disputes
  • a more attractive business for job seekers