Stress At Work | Wessex Health and Safety

Stress At Work

Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it.

What is stress?

HSE defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’.

Employees feel stress when they can’t cope with pressures and other issues. Employers should match demands to employees’ skills and knowledge. For example, employees can get stressed if they feel they don’t have the skills or time to meet tight deadlines. Providing planning, training and support can reduce pressure and bring stress levels down.

Stress affects people differently – what stresses one person may not affect another. Factors like skills and experience, age or disability may all affect whether an employee can cope.

There are six main areas of work design which can effect stress levels. You should manage these properly. They are:

  • demands
  • control
  • support
  • relationships
  • role
  • change

Employers should assess the risks in these areas to manage stress in the workplace.

Signs of stress

Stress is not an illness but it can make you ill. Recognising the signs of stress will help employers to take steps to stop, lower and manage stress in their workplace.

How to help

The earlier a problem is tackled the less impact it will have. If you think that an employee is having problems, encourage them to talk to someone, whether it’s their line manager, trade union representative, GP or their occupational health team.

Help for line managers to have simple, practical conversations with employees which can help prevent stress is available in our Talking Toolkits PDF.

To protect employees from stress at work, employers should assess risks to their health. These example stress risk assessments may help.

You may need to develop individual action plans for employees suffering from stress. HSE’s Management Standards may also help you to identify and manage the six causes of stress at work.

Causes of stress at work

There are six main areas that can lead to work-related stress if they are not managed properly. These are: demands, control, support, relationships, role and change.

For example, employees may say that they:

  • are not able to cope with the demands of their jobs
  • are unable to control the way they do their work
  • don’t receive enough information and support
  • are having trouble with relationships at work, or are being bullied
  • don’t fully understand their role and responsibilities
  • are not engaged when a business is undergoing change

Stress affects people differently – what stresses one person may not affect another. Factors like skills and experience, age or disability may all affect whether an employee can cope.

By talking to your employees and understanding how to identify the signs of stress, you can prevent and reduce stress in your workplace.

Help for employees on stress at work

Spotting signs of stress

If you are stressed you may notice changes in the way you think or feel, for example:

  • feeling negative
  • being indecisive
  • feeling isolated
  • feeling nervous
  • being unable to concentrate

You may act differently, for example:

  • eat more or less than usual
  • smoke, drink or take drugs ‘to cope’
  • have difficulty sleeping

If you are feeling signs of stress at work, it is important to talk to someone, for example your manager. If you talk to them as soon as possible, it will give them the chance to help and stop the situation getting worse.

If the pressure is due to what your line manager is doing, find out what policies are in place to deal with this. If there aren’t any, you could talk to your:

  • trade union representative
  • employee representative
  • HR department
  • employee assistance programme/counselling service if your company has these or
  • GP

Many employees are unwilling to talk about stress at work, because of the stigma stress has. But stress is not a weakness, and can happen to anyone.

What your employer must do

Your employer has a legal duty to assess the risks to your health from stress at work and share the results of any risk assessment with you. Your employer may follow HSE’s Management Standards approach, which help identify and manage the main causes of stress at work.

Help with stress caused by non-work issues

For help outside work, these organisations have useful websites or helplines you can phone for advice in confidence.

Blog Categories

Testimonials


Safe supplier