Health & Safety, HR

What is work related stress and how to manage it?

HSE Definition of Stress

‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’

A certain amount of pressure at work can be highly motivating and encouraging for an employee’s morale and productivity. But there is a very fine line between a healthy level of stress, and too much stress. When it takes its toll, work related stress can potentially lead to poor mental health and lack of motivation. Did you know it is a legal requirement for employers to conduct a risk assessment at work to protect their employees from stress in the workplace?

What are the 6 factors that affect work related stress?  

  1. Having no control around your role and responsibilities
  2. Demands of your job becoming too much
  3. Poor relationships with co-workers
  4. Unclear job description and no direction in your role
  5. Lack of support from co-workers and managers
  6. Change in work environment or change in team dynamic

It is important to understand that stress affects people in different ways. Some individuals may find the factors listed above trigger their stress levels whereas different factors may cause alternative levels of stress to other people. As a manager it is important that you continuously communicate with your employees to understand how they’re feeling and how you can support them through any difficult times.

How to recognise work related stress? 

Understanding the signs to look out for stress in the workplace is essential when managing a team. You may notice your employees are acting differently to what you have typically recognised, this is one sign that they might be stressed. Signs of stress in the workplace include – increase in sickness absence, high staff turnover, arriving late at work late, internal complaints, grievances, a reduction in productivity and poor employee engagement.

What are the personal symptoms of work related stress? 

Work related stress can take its toll on both your physical and mental health, here are some examples of symptoms of work-related stress:

  1. Struggling to concentrate and stay motivated in your role
  2. Feeling sensitive and anxious when at work
  3. Feeling overwhelmed and struggling to switch off when you’re at home
  4. Constant mood swings
  5. Becoming irritable and unable to switch off
  6. Having no energy and feeling tired
  7. Gaining or losing weight
  8. Chest pains/tightness in your chest
  9. Trouble sleeping
  10. Eating more or less than usual
  11. Isolating yourself and becoming withdrawn
  12. Constant headaches

How to support employees

It can be difficult for employees to come forward and recognise they are stressed due to work. Ensure that your employees understand that stress isn’t a sign of weakness and that everyone can suffer from it at some time. It is important you encourage your employees to come forward and talk to you when they’re feeling like this.

If you recognize someone is struggling at work and they need support, urge them to talk to their line manager, HR team, trade union representative, colleague, or doctor. When work is causing an employee to take time off work due to stress levels, the sooner you start to help and manage the issue, the less impact this will have on the individual and your business.

How to manage work related stress

Encouraging employees to talk things through with their managers is a great path to go down. This is the ideal opportunity for the person to come forward and get everything off their chest and the first step to resolving their work-related stress. Below are suggestions for areas to discuss to manage work-related stress:

work related stress

  • How to maintain a healthy work life balance
  • Understand how to organise time effectively during the working day
  • How to develop a healthy and supportive relationships with work colleagues
  • Encourage open and honest discussions about additional training and support that could be given to improve  the efficiency of the job role.
  • Agree to plan an achievable workload to ensure its achievable yet still productive

Stress at work can place a strain on the employee and their physical and mental health, These are the practical elements managers can implement:

  1. Carry out a stress risk assessment, if you do not know how to do this, contact a competent person to carry this out for you
  2. Develop people management skills, encourage your managers to have brave and sensitive conversations with employees. Upskill your team and send them on people management training courses
  3. Support and train your employees, ensure your employees are fully trained to carry out their job to a high standard
  4. Train your managers, ensure your managers know how to carry out potential causes of stress at work, and how to identify when an employee is suffering
  5. Develop a supportive work culture, promote discussions and open conversations for staff to lean on co-workers when experiencing stress

Now we have given you an insight into managing work-related stress, it’s time to implement our top tips within your business. For more support regarding work-related stress and supporting your employees, explore our HR services or contact Park City Consulting. We are experienced in carrying out stress risk assessments, delivering management training and supporting businesses from an HR perspective to successfully implement new processes to support employees in the workplace.

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