With April being stress awareness month, we thought we would focus on how employers can help to alleviate stress in the workplace.
We have all experienced stress in some shape or form in our lives and many of us are all too aware of the debilitating effects that stress than cause. More so now than ever, in the midst of the cost of living crisis , tackling stress in the workplace is crucial.
The main sources of stress in the workplace include:
- Excessive workload
- Lack of support
- Uncertainty of role and objectives
- Redundancy and job uncertainty
- Health concerns and capability
- Childcare and flexible working issues
Stress not only impacts the individual but also affects the employer, with many businesses struggling to cope with sickness absence and covering staff. Data from the Health and Safety Executive published in November 2022 showed that the UK lost 17 million working days to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2021/22.
Stress at work can also lead to a number of claims against an employer including:
- Personal injury
- Disability discrimination
- Breach of contract
- Unfair dismissal/Constructive Dismissal
- Harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997
There are steps that employers can take to help alleviate stress in the workplace, have a happier workforce and to also protect themselves against costly litigation. These can include:
- Update and implement policies and procedures – Including stress at work, sickness absence, equal opportunities, bullying and harassment and flexible working policies. Provisions should also be made within sickness absence policies for employees suffering from mental health issues.
- Training – Training managers and staff on how to recognise stress and mental health issues in the workplace and how to manage it at an early stage will hopefully improve sickness absence.
- Good management – This includes ensuring the workload is shared and delegated appropriately and that employees feel like that they can approach their manager at an early stage to raise concerns. This is particularly important in light of a survey carried out by Westfield Health which revealed that close to half (46%) of UK workers are close to burnout, with the number one cause of work-related stress being workload (78%) (survey carried out by Champion Health). It is crucial that managers regularly check-in with employees, particularly those working from home, ensuring that a safe space is created for employees to raise any concerns they may have. Managers should also lead by example and ensure that positive habits are enforced amongst their staff – for example, by reducing the number of emails sent outside of working hours and ensuring that rest breaks are taken.
- Consultation – Employees, employee representatives or unions should be consulted regarding organisational changes. Lack of information and uncertainty can cause stress to employees.
- Workplace Interviews – Interviews after a period of sickness absence or performance review regarding an employee’s wellbeing will help identify any issues at an early stage. This will hopefully avoid any later disciplinary or capability action.
- Stress Audit – Some employers conduct a stress audit to record and evaluate employees concerns regarding stress in the workplace.
- Employee Survey – Conducting an employee survey to identify the needs and wishes of the workforce can help an organisation improve staff morale and retention.
- Wellbeing Programme – A wellbeing programme could include hosting mindfulness sessions, workplace yoga, offering flexible working, gym membership subsidies, healthcare packages and volunteering programmes.
- Support – This could be through an employee assistance programme, independent external counselling service or occupational health.
- Support financial wellbeing – Financial wellbeing and support for employees should be one of the top priorities for employers this year. A recent survey published by YouGov and YuLife found that 80% of UK employees believe that stress around their financial wellbeing can negatively impact their performance at work – with the figure rising to 88% among those who live in households with children. Some financial wellbeing initiatives in the workplace include:
- Reviewing pay and bonuses;
- One-off lump sum payments, sometimes called cost of living bonuses;
- Creating a financial wellbeing policy;
- Allowing greater flexibility may allow employees to cut costs – for instance by condensing working hours into a shorter working week to allow for fewer travel costs, allowing employees that need to be present in the workplace to travel outside of peak hours, etc;
- Reviewing any benefits available – for instance, childcare vouchers, cycle to work salary sacrifice schemes, discount cards or vouchers and loans or subsidies for season tickets, etc.
Employers taking a forward thinking and sensible approach to mental health and stress in the workplace will lead to a more reliable, secure and productive workforce.
If you would like advice on the above issues, please contact us on 029 2034 5511 or firstname.lastname@example.org