Stress is defined as the ‘adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’.
Most staff benefit from a certain amount of stress and pressure at work. It can keep them motivated and give a sense of ambition. However, when there is too much pressure placed on them, they can become overloaded. Workplace stress can affect the health of staff, reduce their productivity and lead to performance issues.
Recognising and knowing how to tackle stress is something all companies, big or small, need to be prepared for.
Health and well-being at work
The latest annual CIPD survey looking at trends and practices in health, well-being and absence management in UK workplaces was completed in November 2018.
The findings overall reflect employers’ growing recognition of their critical role in improving the health of the workforce. But the survey highlights some cause for concern. These include an increase in stress-related absence and a lack of support for managers, who are invariably expected to take responsibility for their team’s well-being.
There are lots of things we experience which can trigger workplace stress: long hours, unmanageable workloads, difficult interpersonal relationships, to name a few. Day to day demands and pressures of work should not be a barrier to good mental health.
There is no specific law aimed at workplace stress, but employers do have duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their staff. In addition, employers have duties under common law (non-statute) to take reasonable steps to ensure staff health and safety at work.
Steps to ensure healthy working habits
When your employees are happy, healthy and engaged in their work, they”re more likely to meet their goals and for the business to meet targets.
Get to know your staff
- Every new member of staff should have a good induction when joining the company or taking on a new role.
- Regular one-to-ones should be the norm and health and well-being should be included in the discussion – it’s an opportunity to discuss pressures and workloads.
- Support from managers and colleagues – levels of sickness absence often rise if staff feel they cannot talk to managers about issues troubling them.
Management should lead by example
- Visibly show that you are taking care of your own well-being so that staff know that it’s alright for them to do the same.
- Stay home and recover when you are unwell.
- Avoid working excessive hours.
- Encourage flexible working if the opportunity is there to help achieve a better work-life balance.
- Take annual leave.
Regular review of workloads and responsibilities
- Clear and realistic deadlines and expectations should be set. Staff can become overloaded if they cannot cope with the amount of work or type of work they are asked to do.
- Is someone working excessive hours with no breaks? – it could mean there’s too much work to do.
- Skills and experience should match a person’s role and responsibilities. Staff should be given all the information, training and development needed to be able to work with confidence and to a good standard.
Legal rights for long-term workplace stress
An employee does have the right to make a legal claim for stress.They are not easy claims to bring but some are successful.
The most common claim is constructive dismissal based on an employee’s resignation. An employer would have to be shown to be in breach of the term implied into every contract of employment to provide a safe system of work, and which has also led to a breach of the further implied term of mutual trust and confidence between employer and employee.The breach must be sufficiently serious for an employee to resign and a grievance should be lodged first. If on the other hand the employer dismisses and employee because they are stressed, there may well be a claim for unfair dismissal.
There are ways and means of dealing with workplace stress issues. From the perspective of the employer and employee there are rights of redress in law. It is important for both parties to strive towards a happy and healthy working environment. Thus avoiding any problems that stress can cause.
Whatever side of the fence you may be on, if you are having a problem that we could help you with please get in touch.
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