7 November is National Stress Awareness Day – and since it’s a health and safety issue like any other, it’s a good time to consider your organisation’s approach to stress.
Taking action against stress has a wealth of benefits. It means happier staff and higher morale; better productivity; lower absenteeism; lower turnover; and of course an overall safer workplace.
Read on and we’ll take you through six practical steps you can take to reduce and manage employee stress – straight from our experts. Plus, Croner-i Health & Safety subscribers can read 6 more tips from Health Assured CEO David Price.
1. Know your enemy
The first step to tackling stress is to learn about it, and train your managers and staff accordingly. It’s vital to understand what stress is, the health issues it can cause, signs of stress, and common stressors.
2. Implement a stress at work policy – and stick to it
Show that the company takes stress seriously, and lay out what you’re doing about it, with an official stress policy. It ought to cover your responsibilities, the support available to employees, and the actions the organisation is taking (or will take) to help reduce stress.
Croner-i Health & Safety subscribers can use our model one here:
And be sure to follow through with all the right documents and procedures. That can include training for managers, stress absence forms and return-to-work questionnaires, an official stress management programme, and a full procedure for handling stress-related illness.
3. Perform a stress risk assessment
Since occupational stress is a health & safety issue like any other, it needs to be treated like one – and that means performing a risk assessment. In fact, you may have a legal duty to do so.
Use it to identify the risks, including who is most at risk and what the potential effects could be, and what control measures you can implement to reduce or prevent them. See how to do that in our guide.
4. Conduct a full stress review
To really tackle stress, you’ll need to examine your employees’ roles, spot where stressors may be lying, and take steps to rectify them right at the source. This can be done through talking, soliciting feedback, checking performance appraisals, and so on.
Potential areas to audit include:
- Job roles – Do all your employees fully understand what their job is and what it involves? And are they happy with their work tasks?
- Workloads, targets, and deadlines – Are they reasonable for the employees in question, or should work be altered or delegated?
- Working hours – Do employees’ working patterns, shifts, and hours work for them? Could you allow more flexibility?
- Support – Do they have the resources and training they need to do their jobs? Do they get adequate feedback or one-to-ones? Are they able to speak up if they have an issue?
Health & safety experts have identified a few other things that could be acting as stressors too – for instance, Charlie Turner of System Concepts recommends auditing your use of mobile technology.
5. Implement a bullying and harassment policy
Taught work relationships can be a big cause of stress, and bullying and harassment infinitely more so. Putting a company policy in place sends a positive message that this behaviour won’t be stood for.
Again, of course, it’s just as important to follow through on your policy, and support anyone who reports an incident. An official complaints procedure for victims to follow helps with this.
6. Spruce up your environment
Could your workplace itself be acting as a stressor? H&S expert Laura King reckons a few changes to the work environment can make a difference in reducing stress.
- Neutral décor – lots of bright colours can be overwhelming
- Adequate lighting
- Comfortable, ergonomic workstations
- Decent break rooms or quiet areas
- Social spaces that allow communication
In offices especially, consider where different departments are laid out. For example, is there a noisy team sitting too close to one that needs peace and quiet? This could be a stressor for the quiet team.
For more advice on staff stress and mental health, look inside Croner-i Health & Safety.