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Raising awareness of stress in the workplace

Published 11 April 2022

The timing of stress awareness month could not be better and employers should take note.

Work-related stress is a leading cause of employee sickness absence, with major factors causing work-related stress including workload pressures, tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support.

Stress is when you feel overloaded by demands being placed on you, or your reaction to being put under pressure is to feel upset, worried, or unable to cope, you might describe yourself as feeling stressed.

Current fears, worries and anxiety about matters outside of work will undoubtedly add to the pressure and stress many workers are already experiencing.

April is Stress Awareness Month and it has never been more timely for all employers to consider how best to help manage work-related stress.

The theme for the awareness campaign is community as it is where change is said to start, and that community can be your workplace [1 cited 11/04/22]

The cost of living crisis is very real, April signals the start of a new tax year and the worrying increase in household bills is set to kick in.

Many employees will have growing concerns about rising bills, the cost of supermarkets shops and not being able to enjoy life’s little luxuries.

For some who may have already been struggling to make ends meet, the price increases are frightening.

A construction firm boss has put his hand in his pocket and given every employee £750 to help combat the rising fuel costs - and hopes his kindness will shame other companies into giving their staff the same respect [2 cited 11/04/22]

Stress caused by matters outside of work can cause work-related stress and have an inevitable impact on an employee’s performance.

The law requires all employers, regardless of the size of an organisation, to assess the risk of work-related stress and to put steps in place to tackle those risks.

Research identified that 65 per cent of people in the UK have felt more stressed since the COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020.

The three key causes for concern are feelings of disconnection, uncertainty, and a worrying loss of control.

Building a supportive workplace, where workers look out for each other and relationships are positive, can help reduce, even prevent, stress developing.

Recognising stress is said to be the first step to reducing it. Everyone experiences stress in different ways, which contributes to stress manifesting in quite different ways.

According to the NHS, stress can cause many different symptoms. It might affect how you feel physically, mentally and also how you behave [3 cited 11/04/22]

Where stress is work related it can affect all aspects of an organisation, including productivity, absenteeism rates and interpersonal relationships.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Talking Toolkit has been produced for employers to help kickstart simple, practical conversations with workers, identify any issues and tackle them [4 cited 11/04/22]

The conversations are based around six factors: demands, control, support, relationships, role and change.

For each conversation, the first sheet of the toolkit gives the line manager a series of questions to start discussions with an employee about the causes of stress. The second sheet helps the line manager to develop ideas for how to begin tackling causes.

The HSE says: “It’s important to remember that it’s not an employer’s or a line manager’s job to diagnose or treat stress, whatever its cause. If an employee is having problems, it’s important that they get help as soon as possible.

It is vital to recognise the signs of stress as early as possible so that actions can be taken before serious stress-related illness occur.

Left unchecked stress can contribute to serious health problems, such as depression ,high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

The HSE provides a range of practical support and guidance available for managing stress in the workplace. It includes risk assessment templates, a talking toolkit to help start conversations, workbooks and posters [5 cited 11/04/22]

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