November 1, 2017
The first Wednesday in November each year is National Stress Awareness Day and with statistics from the Labour Force Survey indicating that stress accounted for 37% of all work related ill health in 2015/2016, this is a National Awareness Day for all employers to get behind.
Pressure v Stress
It’s widely accepted that a reasonable level of pressure can be healthy and in some cases can even improve our performance. For example, when we feel motivated to meet a particular deadline or come under “pressure” to rise to a new challenge. That said, if pressure becomes excessive, it can lose any motivating benefit and can become damaging to our health.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as “The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work” and the repercussions of this can naturally vary significantly from one person to another.
What forms can stress take?
Stress can manifest itself in many different ways including changes to behaviour (such as acting out of character and/or withdrawing from social contact); physical symptoms including tension headaches and; emotional reactions including feeling overwhelmed and agitated.
So, what can employers do to reduce stress and support employees in the workplace?
- Ensure staff are fully trained and continually supported within their roles. This is particularly important for new recruits and anyone who changes their role internally.
- Wherever possible, arrange regular meetings to provide staff with an opportunity to share any concerns and to identify any changes which could work for the business and the individual concerned.
- Provide flexibility (naturally within the confines of the role and business need) including considering changes to working patterns or ways of working.
- Wherever possible, provide access to support such as counselling and as a minimum, signpost staff to relevant support including Mind.
- Provide additional support during periods of change and uncertainty.
What help is available to employers?
Help is at hand through various organisations including ACAS and Mind.
In addition, in situations where an employee is absent due to stress or otherwise, for four weeks or more, employers can make a referral to the Fit for Work service for free advice and an occupational health assessment.
About the Author
Kelly Pashley-Handford is a senior HR professional who has worked within legal services for over twenty years. She is fully CIPD qualified and adept at advising businesses on HR issues both strategically and practically.
Kelly provides both in-house and outsourced HR support on a diverse range of HR issues including redundancies, grievances and disciplinary issues, recruitment, training and organisational change. She has worked with small and medium sized organisations in Chesterfield and the surrounding area, giving her a valuable local perspective on the business challenges facing local clients.