Why Should Employers be Concerned About Stress in the Workplace?

What is Stress?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) describes stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or demand’. This may come from either work-related pressures (e.g. high work demand, poor working relationships, noisy environment) or other demands that an employee may have in their personal lives (e.g. debt, divorce, bereavement). Sometimes an employee may suffer from both types of stressor at the same time.

What Does the Law Say?

Employers have a legal duty to provide a safe place of work for their employees. Though most employers understand their ‘traditional’ responsibilities around health and safety aspects such as providing appropriate tools, PPE and warning signs; many still don’t realise that this responsibility also extends to their employees mental health and wellbeing.

Why Does Stress at Work Matter?

As employers are responsible for providing a safe place of work for their employees, they must ensure factors such as excessive work demands, pressurised environments, bad working relationships and other stressors are reduced. Employees will essentially feel stressed when they can’t cope with the demands and pressure placed upon them at work.

Stress can lead to other longer-term health issues such as depression and anxiety. So doing what you can early on to support your employees helps them and is also beneficial for the business in reducing the likelihood of staff going off on long-term sickness.

What Do I Have to Do?

Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by carrying out a risk assessment and acting upon any identified risks. The HSE recommends that businesses consider the following six elements that can cause stress:

  • Demands
  • Control
  • Support
  • Relationships
  • Role
  • Change

Employers should always remain aware of the fact that stress affects people differently. What one person finds stressful, someone else will not.

For a staff member who has a mental health related disability (e.g. depression); the employer must consider making reasonable adjustments to enable them to carry out their job. This could include flexible working hours, change to role responsibilities and increased support.

What Else Can I Do?

Many employers will want to offer more than they have to, to supporting their workforces wellbeing. Here are some ideas that you can implement into your business:

  • Offering job based training and skills development can help reduce pressure
  • Creating a supportive and openly communicative culture can encourage employees discuss their concerns which acts as a stress reliever (they are less likely to keep things bottled up)
  • Helping employees learn how to plan their workload, particularly in busy periods and clarifying priorities for the business
  • Offering health and wellness related benefits such as an Employee Assistance Programme, financial advice sessions, discounted gym membership, yoga/meditation sessions at work, health insurance are all popular benefits

If you have any questions about mental health, concerns for your employees or want to discuss mental health support at work, please contact EmployAssist HR who are qualified Mental Health First Aiders.