HR & Management

Advice on creating a stress-free workplace

5 min read

05 September 2015

Recent studies have revealed we are becoming a nation of stressed-out workers. How can employers relax us all?

According to research earlier this week by cycle to work programme Cyclescheme, a quarter of UK employees said they had broken down in tears due to work stress, with over a third claiming they suffer from insomnia.

Anxiety has caused four in ten employees to feel overworked, with over a third cancelling social plans as a result and three in ten having their weekend disrupted by workplace stresses.

It seems a good time then to get a reminder about how employers should best recognise and subsequently look after employees who are suffering from stress.

According to Acas, mental health problems cost UK employers £30bn a year through lost production, recruitment and absence.

The definition of mental health is the mental and emotional state in which we feel able to cope with the normal stresses of everyday life.

Acas believes that if we are feeling good about ourselves we work productively, interact well with colleagues and make a valuable contribution to the workplace.

Mental ill-health can range from feeling “a bit down” to common disorders such as anxiety and depression and, in limited cases, to severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Read more about the issue:

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has found that 37 per cent of sufferers are more likely to get into conflict with colleagues, 57 per cent find it harder to juggle multiple tasks, 80 per cent find it difficult to concentrate, 62 per cent take longer to do tasks and 50 per cent are potentially less patient with customers/clients.

So what can an employer or manager do to lessen the effects?

First they have to understand the legal issues at play – some forms of mental ill health may be classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if they have “a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.

According to Acas, the Act makes it unlawful for an employer to treat a disabled person less favourably for a reason relating to their disability, without a justifiable reason. Some forms of mental illness – such as dementia, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia – are classed as a disability and need to be covered in an employer’s equality policies.

Employers need to identify the main causes of stress and act to solve them. Acas had the following advice:

Demands

Employees can become overloaded if they can’t cope with the volumes of work being asked of them. An employer needs to pay attention to the way the job is designed, training needs and whether it is possible for the employees to work more flexible hours.

Control

Employees can perform poorly and feel disaffected if they have no say over how and when they do their work. In this instance employers should get employees actively involved in decision making and how reviewing performance can help identify strengths and weaknesses.

Support

Levels of sick absence can rise if employees feel they can’t talk to managers about issues troubling them. Employers should allow employees the opportunity to talk to managers about these issues. Provide a sympathetic ear and keep them informed on progress.

Staff relationships

There could be bullying at work. If so check your policies for tackling bullying and harassment and make sure all employees know them and that disciplinary actions will be carried out.

What’s my role

Employees will feel anxious about their work if they don’t know what is expected of them. Employers should maintain a close link between individual targets and organisational goals.