How to manage stress in the workplace

As Stress Awareness Month begins, the chief executive of leading EAP provider Health Assured talks about how employers can manage workplace stress.

David Price said the first step in managing stress in the workplace is to become more aware of its causes and effects.

Stress statistics

New figures released by Health Assured show they received more than 14,000 stress-related calls last year, with half of those from people over 40 years old. The figures also reveal around two thirds (63%) of stress-related calls were from woman and 37% were from men. In addition, they show May was the busiest month last year for calls relating to stress.

Taking the first step

“The first step to managing stress is to develop awareness of the causes of stress and the effects of stress in the workplace,” said Mr Price.

“Whilst experiencing some stress is normal, employees who feel over-stressed or are suffering from work-related stress are at risk of becoming unhealthy.

“Employees themselves can be provided with training or awareness initiatives on how to determine their stress levels, how to manage stress and when to speak to management about this,” he added.

Manager training

“Managers will require training on how to spot a member of staff who is suffering from stress. Although they are unlikely to become experts, and each individual will differ in how they project stress, usual signs of stress include changes in behaviour, the standard of work or the employee’s attitude towards tasks.

“Managers who suspect an employee is suffering from stress need to hold a discussion with the individual themselves. This will help determine whether the individual is experiencing stress, what factors are affecting them e.g. whether this is work-related or personal factors, and how the workplace can help the employee. Without this discussion, the manager can make assumptions, which could, in the long run, result in detrimental changes being introduced.

“Additionally, employees should be actively encouraged to approach their managers to discuss their health. Where a member of staff discloses they are feeling stressed, the same private discussion can be held,” said Mr Price.

Active support

“Actively supporting employees in the workplace will help reduce stress and prevent employees from suffering detrimental levels of stress. Where the cause of stress has previously been identified as work-related, small changes to reduce the pressure on the employee will help manage this.

“This could include, for example, temporarily reducing workloads, providing additional support or reviewing deadlines. Even if stress is being affected by factors outside of work, employers can still provide support to aid employees. This may be through an Employee Assistance Programme, providing training on managing stress and promoting external advice or support services.

“Stress, by itself, is not a mental condition that is classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010. It can, however, lead to further medical conditions or physical conditions that can fall within the definition of disability, such as depression, anxiety or heart disease. Proactively talking to employees with stress, and providing workplace support, will help ensure stress is managed before it progresses.”