How can employers manage stress in the workplace?

Written by
Changeboard Team

01 Mar 2010

01 Mar 2010 • by Changeboard Team

The Challenges of workplace stress

Although stress is not recognised as a medical condition, there are direct links which show that it can have an impact on employees mental health. The cost of sickness to UK employers due to mental illness alone was estimated by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health to be ??25.9bn in 2006 or ??28.3bn at 2009 pay levels. 

(Source: Sainsbury Centre for Mental health (2007) mental health at work: developing the business case. Policy paper. London: Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health)

It's the failure by managers and human resources teams to identify mental health symptoms or have the right systems in place to cope with them which are having an impact on organisations today.

What does workplace stress mean for HR?

Human resources professionals are continually facing a number of Challenges as a result of workplace stress. These include:

  • reduced employee commitment
  • a drop in staff performance and productivity levels
  • high staff turnover affecting recruitment and retention
  • reduced staff attendance levels 
  • a decrease in customer satisfaction 
  • an adverse impact on the organisations image and reputation in the long term

Stress management & duty of care

Through several work-related regulations such as The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers have a duty to protect the health of their employees, including risks to mental health.

All organisations should be encouraged to take positive steps to improve the management of stress in the workplace as early as possible. This not only helps to provide the opportunity to implement the necessary support to boost staff morale, well-being and team productivity, it also improves productivity and helps to keep employee sickness and additional recruitment costs down. 

How can HR manage and prevent employee stress?

Identifying the early signs of workplace stress is crucial for HR managers. This can be done by:

  • regularly carrying out employee risk assessments
  • reviewing working practices
  • monitoring the hours that employees are working
  • regularly reviewing the demands of peoples roles.

Consider using a provider of occupational health services and facilities. Think about initiatives that will help to reduce stress in the workplace such as early stress awareness tests, employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and health risk and absence management.

By incorporating occupational health services, HR managers can help keep employees effective, efficient and happy at work.

Ensure employees are fit, healthy & stress free

As the annual economic cost of sickness absences and worklessness are estimated to be over £100 billion (Working for a healthier tomorrow) absenteeism of employees for four weeks or more have been directly related to stress, along with the presenteeism of employees who are under pressure to work while sick or in a stressed out capacity.

Ensuring the right measures and systems in dealing with work related stress are in place remains a cost-effective and productive way to maintain a healthy workforce. The cost of a sick workforce far outweighs the incorporation of occupational health services and the planning of preventative measures in advance should be an important consideration.