HSE to clamp down on work-related stress

Gavin Scarr Hall - Director of Health and Safety

November 02 2021

Stress is a common fact of life. Without it, our ancestors would have all been eaten by sabre-tooth tigers...

But high levels of work-related stress can cause depression, anxiety, and even physical illnesses – which can mean lengthy staff absences.

And now people are returning to work, the HSE have started to clamp down on work-related stress. As part of their spot checks, they are checking whether employers are doing enough to support their staff.

So, to breeze through an inspection and create a stress-free workforce, here’s all you need to know…

Carry out a stress risk assessment

You have a legal duty to protect employees from work-related stress by doing a risk assessment – and acting on it. That’s why HSE inspectors are now asking employers whether they’ve completed a stress risk assessment. 

To do this, you need to list all of the hazards which could leave your staff feeling stressed, and outline how you plan to manage these risks.

If you have more than five staff, you’ll need to keep a written record of this. Your assessment should include the following:

  • What are the hazards?
  • Who might be harmed and why?
  • What are you already doing to reduce the risk?
  • What further action is necessary?

Then, you’ll need to include who will carry out any further actions, when the deadline is, and whether these tasks have been completed. 

Identifying stress hazards in your workplace

To identify any hazards in your workplace, you could ask staff whether they’ve felt stressed at work – and why. An anonymous survey could help your employees speak out without holding back.  

To give you an idea, staff could feel stressed when they:

  • Feel unable to cope with the demands of a job
  • Don’t receive enough information or support from management
  • Have troubled or strained relationships with colleagues
  • Don’t fully understand a role or its responsibilities
  • Work long or unpredictable working hours
  • Face challenging situations, like high-pressure targets or difficult customers
  • Work in a bad environment i.e. excessive noise or poor lighting

Then, once you’ve listed these potential hazards, it’s time to map out how you plan to reduce the risk… 

Put measures in place to prevent stress

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to tackling stress - identifying the root cause is crucial.

So, take a look at your potential stress hazards. When you know what triggers stress in your employees, you can start putting the right measures in place.

It’s better to make decisions on a case-by-case basis but here’s a few broad ideas that prevent workplace stress:

1. Encourage workplace wellness

Exercise and healthy living are essential when it comes to reducing stress. Encouraging staff to go for a walk during their lunch break is a good place to start. But you can help outside of the workplace by subsidising gym memberships or offering discounts of exercise classes.

2. Check in with your staff

Having regular one-to-ones can help you manage employee stress. This is a great chance to spot who may be at risk to stress and burnout.

Ask how your employee is coping with their duties and if you can support them in any way. If they’re struggling to cope, consider reducing their workload or providing more support – like training.

3. Consider flexible and remote working

Giving employees more control over their workday and workload can alleviate a lot of stress. Struggling to find a work life balance can be a problem for some members of staff.

Introducing flexitime or remote work – even on a part time basis – can help a lot.

4. Encourage social activity

Employees spend a lot of time together, so it’s important they’re comfortable with one another. As co-workers get to know each other, they enjoy working together more. This makes team-based tasks run more smoothly – which reduces employee stress.

5. Implement an EAP

An Employee Assistance Programme gives your staff access to counselling and medical support.

This helps employees overcome their toughest personal problems and manage stress. And since you outsource all that to mental health experts, you free up your own time for your business.

From guiding you through your risk assessment to our staff EAP, we’re here to help reduce stress – for both you and your staff.

Call your advisers on 0800 028 2420 or discover our unlimited health & safety support.

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