Stress Awareness Month has taken place every April since 1992 to raise public awareness about the signs and causes of stress as well as provide guidance on how sufferers can manage and improve their condition.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to soaring levels of stress, anxiety and depression in the UK population. Restrictions on our movements, reduced income, ill health and financial difficulties have contributed to a stress epidemic.
As an employer, what do you need to know about stress in the workplace? How do you spot the early signs and what are your legal responsibilities for supporting employees who are struggling with their mental health?
A change in behaviour and attitude could be a red flag indicating that one of your team is feeling stressed. Recognising the signs of this debilitating condition is crucial because acting early can significantly reduce the impact of pressure and make it easier to manage. If any of your employees show these signs, be sure to check in with them and identify any potential stress triggers in their work:
As well as signs of stress in individuals, managers should look out for changes in how a team behaves and performs. An increase in the number of arguments, a higher staff turnover, more complaints, reports of stress and higher than average sickness absence could all indicate that your team is experiencing an unhealthy level of stress.
COVID-19 has transformed the way we live and work. More people than ever before are working from home and many businesses plan to continue some form of hybrid working in the long term. Remote working presents unique challenges for employers seeking to monitor and support the mental health and wellbeing of their people. How can you spot stress in employees who you don’t see in person every day?
People have very different stress triggers — what causes high levels of anxiety in one employee may have no impact on another. However, some common causes of workplace stress include:
The pandemic has shrunk the divide between our personal and work lives. For some, this may have eased stress — no rush hour commute and no need to see the workplace bully every day. For others, homeworking could have introduced new stressors — trying to juggle childcare and work simultaneously or finding it hard to switch off from work at the end of the day.
Employers should be aware of the specific environment in which their people are working and the potential for stress this may cause.
Employers have a legal duty to protect their people from harm to their mental health, just as they do to keep employees safe from physical injury or ill-health. There are two key pieces of legislation covering stress in the workplace and an employer’s responsibilities.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 places a legal duty on employers to protect their people from stress by completing a risk assessment and implementing safety measures to reduce any hazards identified. Businesses with fewer than five employees do not need to produce a written document but they must still undertake a risk assessment.
Under The Equalities Act 2010 mental health may be classed as a disability. Employers have a legal responsibility to make “reasonable adjustments” so that employees who have a disability can fulfil their role.
Providing relevant and sufficient training is crucial for the effective management of workplace stress. Howlett Health and Safety Services provide an online Stress Awareness training course that will equip your staff with the knowledge and skills to identify and manage stress in themselves and others. The course covers all relevant legislation.
We can also provide expert advice on conducting risk assessments to help you identify stress risks and implement strategies to reduce those risks.
Get in touch today for a free quote and 15-minute consultation.