Work-related stress and how to manage it
HSE defines stress as 'the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them'.
Workers feel stress when they can't cope with pressures and other issues. Employers should match demands to workers' skills and knowledge. For example, workers 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 worker can cope.
There are six main areas of work design which can effect stress levels. You should manage these properly. They are:
Signs of stressStress 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 helpThe earlier a problem is tackled the less impact it will have. If you think that a worker is having problems, encourage them to talk to someone, whether it’s their line manager, trade union representative, GP or their occupational health team.
To protect workers 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 workers 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 workThere 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, workers 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 a worker can cope.
By talking to your workers and understanding how to identify the signs of stress, you can prevent and reduce stress in your workplace.
Signs of stressIf workers start acting differently, it can be a sign they are stressed. Managers should look out for signs of stress in teams and workers, listed below. Think about whether the stress could be linked to work pressure.
Acting early can reduce the impact of pressure and make it easier to reduce or remove the causes. If managers are worried that a worker is showing some of these signs, they should encourage them to see their GP. These signs can be symptoms of other conditions. If there is something wrong at work, and this has caused the problem, managers should take action.
Signs of stress in teamsThere may be signs of stress in a team, like
- higher staff turnover
- more reports of stress
- more sickness absence
- decreased performance
- more complaints and grievances
Employers must assess the risks of work-related stress in their workplace and take action to protect workers.
Signs of stress in a workerA change in the way someone acts can be a sign of stress, for example they may:
- take more time off
- arrive for work later
- be more twitchy or nervous
- mood swings
- being withdrawn
- loss of motivation, commitment and confidence
- increased emotional reactions – being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive
Workers can help look after their own stress levels at work - if you think you have a problem talk to your manager, a colleague or your GP.