Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demands placed on them. There’s an important distinction between pressure, which can create a ‘buzz’ and be motivating, and stress, which occurs when this pressure becomes excessive.
When it comes to spotting the signs of stress and doing everything you can to mitigate the risk of stress in your business, it’s crucial to put together a thorough stress risk assessment with the help of your employees, and then take measures to control those risks.
Sources of Stress
Sources of stress can be categorised into groups to help employers identify where the stress risks in their business may be.
Demands – this includes issues such as workload, tight deadlines, work patterns, and the work environment.
Control – how much say someone has in the way they do their work.
Support – this includes the encouragement, sponsorship, and resources provided by the organisation, line management, and colleagues.
Relationships – does your business promote positive working to avoid conflict and how effectively do you deal with unacceptable behaviour.
Role – do people understand their role within your business?
Change – how do you manage organisation change? Do you communicate and manage this effectively with your people?
People feel stress when they feel overwhelmed by the range of pressures they’re facing. However, stress affects people differently – what might be stressful to one person, might not affect another. However, if you can recognise the most common signs of stress, you’ll be able to take steps much earlier to manage stress in your workplace.
Common signs of work-related stress include:
- Loss of motivation, commitment, and confidence
- Arriving late for work
- Being more tense or even nervous
- Mood swings Increase in emotional reactions – e.g. more tearful, sensitive or reactive
- Taking more time off work
- Change in appearance.
- A general change in attitude and behaviour
How to help employees dealing with work-related stress
- If an employee confides in your or one of your managers that they’re suffering from work-related stress, there are a few things you need to consider as an employer:
- Do you have an up-to-date stress risk assessment that both you and your employee can refer to?
- Are your managers trained to spot the signs of stress and are they comfortable discussing the issue with your employees?
- Can you make changes to their role, working environment, hours, job role etc to help them through a period of stress?
- If an employee is currently off work with stress, can you facilitate a phased return to work to help them settle back in at a manageable pace?
- When an employee returns, will you conduct a return-to-work interview? Can you update your risk assessment to reflect any changes in how you manage stress in your workplace and communicate that with your wider team.