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Work related stress - it affects us all

According to the HSE in 2017/18 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases and 57% of all working days lost due to ill health. This equates to 15.4 million lost working days. ANYONE can suffer from work-related stress and the figures speak for themselves; it’s something we can’t, and shouldn’t, ignore. In the past year 74% of people in the UK have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope1.

Work related stress is most commonly associated with the effects of unreasonable pressures of work. And it affects people differently – what stresses one person may not affect another. Factors such as skills and experience, age or disability may all affect what a person can cope with.

Things that can cause stress include:

  • the task being physically or mentally beyond the individual's capacity

  • day-to-day interaction with people, abuse and harassment

  • role ambiguity

  • role conflict: opposing demands being made

  • little or no recognition for work done

  • threat to personal safety or fear of redundancy or dismissal

  • environmental factors such as noise, heat, lighting or cleanliness

As an employer you have a legal responsibility to take reasonably practicable steps to control the factors within work that may affect the health of employees. Organisations with five or more employees are required to implement a written health and safety policy, and this should include a section on work-related stress. It should outline measures to prevent work-related stress, outline the commitment from the top of an organisation in dealing with it, and also detail methods to alleviate any undue stresses that do occur. The earlier a problem is tackled the less impact it will have.

So what proactive steps can you take in order to control and manage work place stress?

  • conduct stress risks assessments and implement recommendations from them

  • match demands to employees’ skills and knowledge

  • promote a good, supportive working environment, and a culture of openness

  • offer support to employees experiencing stress either inside or outside work

  • be aware of training and development needs

  • maintain good communication at all times, particularly where there are organisational changes

  • monitor and review workloads to ensure that they do not become excessive

  • monitor working hours and overtime to ensure that employees are not overworking and monitor holidays to ensure that employees are taking their full entitlement

  • ensure that bullying and harassment is not tolerated within the business

  • adopt an ‘open door’ policy, encouraging approachability and allowing early intervention

It is important to remember that managers cannot be expected to act on problems that have not been brought to their attention or could not have reasonably been foreseen. Every individual has a clear responsibility to themselves and others to minimise excessive pressures and demands by behaving responsibly and reporting any concerns to line managers.

If any of the above issues give you cause for concern or set alarm bells ringing, then now is the time to start dealing with the root cause. The welling being of your employees in paramount to a happy and successful business. Contact us here for any help you may need dealing with work related stress in your organisation.


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