Working together to reduce stress in the workplace

  • Occupational Health
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

Stress Awareness Month is held every April to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for the stress that many of us feel day to day, so it is a good time to reflect on whether more can be done within the organisation.   

Why is awareness of stress important?

Feeling stress or pressure does not necessarily mean that an individual will suffer from the ill effects of stress. Some stress can be used to boost motivation to complete a task or make it through a particularly difficult problem, however the serious long-term impact it can have on physical and mental health makes it a serious workplace issue.

Whilst some stress can be beneficial, too much can lead to anxiety, depression, poor performance and productivity, and ultimately low retention levels. Stress can also lead to physical symptoms such as heart disease, back pain and IBS, and absences from work. Putting in place measures to build resilience against stress and reduce the likelihood of it happening not only benefits individuals but also the organisation and the economy.

What can employers do about stress?

There are plenty of actions employers can take to alleviate and prevent harmful stress in the workplace. It can be helpful to introduce a range of measures, rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach, as different things will work for different employees. Ultimately, creating an organisational culture that promotes mental and physical wellbeing and that enables individuals to recognise and control their own stress triggers can be the best defence to stress in the workplace.

How can we prevent work-related stress for our employees?

How do I alleviate work related stress?

Do employers have to risk assess stress at work?

Putting into place measures to manage stress at work is not a “one-time” event. It should be approached proactively and be reviewed and adjusted regularly to ensure it continues to meet the needs of the individuals within the organisation. One way to achieve this is by regularly checking in with employees and developing individual wellbeing plans with them, to help them and their manager recognise what good wellbeing looks like for them and what their signs are that their wellbeing is at risk of harm.

Workloads should be monitored to ensure that they are reasonable and achievable. Where they are not, it could be that work is redistributed, but care must be taken to ensure that this is not seen as a punishment or an attempt to downgrade a job. Any actions taken should be discussed with the employee first. It could be that helping them to re-prioritise their work and extending deadlines helps them enough to reduce the stress they are feeling.

Encouraging employees to make the most of opportunities to implement positive mental health practices is also part of building a positive wellbeing culture. This can be by discouraging the undertaking of excessive overtime or work outside of hours, and by periodically reminding employees to book and take annual leave.

Providing mental health training or access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) can build up individual knowledge of stress and resilience to it, by helping employees to recognise their own stress triggers and coping mechanisms. An EAP can also help an employee to better manage stressors from their personal life, through providing information and advice on financial planning, debt management and other aspects of homelife that can cause stress.

Overall, working collaboratively and adapting as time goes on helps to secure and maintain an organisational culture that is designed to reduce stress and tackle it efficiently when it arises.

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