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How to Recognise and Manage Workplace Stress

11th Jul 2017
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If you have suffered from workplace stress, you will inevitably understand the implications that this can have on your life. Many people who suffer from workplace stress find it difficult to continue their job as normal, struggle to sleep and have problems interacting with those close to them. The stress can also lead to difficulties within the business they work for, as other employees take on the workload of those suffering.

Mental health issues such as stress, depression and anxiety accounted for more than 11 million days of absence from work last year. The causes of workplace stress vary and range from bullying to inadequate training and colleague relationship problems. 

All employers have a duty of care to ensure that the health and wellbeing of their employees are not compromised. Employers have a legal duty to remove, minimise and respond to issues that may lead to workplace stress. Failing to take adequate steps can result in a personal injury claim being made against the employer. So being proactive in recognising and dealing with instances of workplace stress is best for both employers and employees.

How to Recognise Workplace Stress

Stress can present itself in a variety of ways and the symptoms presented by one person may be entirely different to those of another. Some of the most common signs that an employee is suffering from workplace stress include:

  • Physical differences - Although stress is a mental condition, there are often physical symptoms presented. An employer should recognise whether their employees have significant changes in their appearance such as changes in weight, looking tired or tense or whether they seem agitated or sweat more. 
  • Increased periods of absence - When a person suffers from stress, completing their normal daily routine becomes more challenging and if the stress is caused by workplace issues, days off work may well increase. 
  • Work performance - Attitudes to work may change when an employee feels stressed, and their performance can suffer. Stress can lead to poor levels of concentration, tiredness and anger and in turn, these can impact on a sufferer's ability to conduct themselves in a normal way.

What support can be offered by the employer?

Conscientious employers can help to prevent workplace stress for their employees by providing a safe and efficient working environment as well as solutions for those who feel under pressure. When an employer is able to recognise that a staff member is suffering from stress, they are more likely to be able to help them address problems and deal with concerns.

There are a number of ways in which your employer may be able to help you if you or your colleagues are suffering from workplace stress. Some employer actions may be preventative, and others may be in remedy. Below are some examples of how an employer might be able to help:

Reliable and Efficient Management

Employers can help stabilise the workplace through ensuring that managerial support is available to all employees. When employers have well-trained, open and effective managers, workplace stress is less likely. Such managers are approachable and allow staff to discuss concerns before they develop into more serious matters. 

Engage with mental health charities and make use of the mental wellbeing support that they offer

Many charities will offer training in the workplace to help employers and managers recognise and deal with stress within the workforce as well as provide employees with coping tools. Charities that may help include Mind, Sane, Together and Mental Health Foundation.

Empowerment

Employers who empower their staff to allow them platforms to speak openly, the confidence to say ‘no' and the resilience to overcome difficulties in their jobs. Employees who feel valued and empowered are those who are better equipped to manage stress and those who stay in their jobs for longer.

Be Mindful of Changes

When an employee takes extra sick days or books annual leave repeatedly, employers should take care to recognise whether there are additional signs of stress. Taking the opportunity to ensure that the staff member doesn't feel overworked or burdened can ensure that obstacles are tackled promptly, prior to stress developing.

It is an employer's legal duty to ensure that their staff are not placed in unnecessary danger, both physically and mentally. The Health and Safety Executive offers a further range of advice and guidelines for employers and staff to ensure that the risk of workplace stress is minimised. 

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