Stress management

Posted  17th October 2016

A snippet from the HR Resource Centre toolkit on stress management

Employers have a legal duty of care to identify potential causes of stress and manage the impact of stress on employees.

Many employees will feel under pressure from time to time in the normal course of their duties, and the point at which pressure becomes stress can be difficult to identify. The key is for the line manager to be aware of changes to an individual’s behaviour that are more than just a ‘one-off’ incident. Behaviours that may indicate that an individual is experiencing stress include:
  • displaying negative or depressive emotions
  • increased emotional reactions, for example being tearful, sensitive or aggressive
  • loss of motivation, commitment and confidence
  • poor performance
  • mood swings
  • lack of concentration
  • poor memory
  • changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • changes in attendance, for example arriving late for work or taking an unusual amount of sickness absence
  • working long hours and/or not taking breaks

Managers should act quickly if they become aware a team member is suffering from stress. Taking early action is likely to be most effective and help alleviate the effects of stress. It will also help the organisation avoid legal liability or personal injury claims. Where a manager becomes aware that an employee is showing signs of stress they should arrange a meeting with the employee. Careful thought should be given to the best person to conduct the meeting; the line manager, a more senior/experienced manager or an HR Adviser. The manager should make the employee aware that they are concerned about them as they appear to be under pressure and that it is their intention to support them wherever possible.
  • be held in private
  • be kept as informal as possible
  • work through the workplace stress form
  • ascertain if there is anything at work which is causing them concern e.g. work volume/working relationships
  • ascertain if there is anything outside of work, though the employee does not need to give details
  • establish whether there is any support that can reasonably be offered, e.g. training, mentoring, coaching or counselling
  • explore what the employee themselves can do to help the situation
  • refer the employee to seek advice from their GP if that might be helpful
  • develop a short-term/long-term action plan
  • set a review date to assess the impact of any interventions
  • establish if the manager needs to investigate the situation any further to better understand the employee’s concerns e.g. operating systems that are causing frustration

Organisational stressors

  • Temporary or permanent re-organisation of work or reduction in hours
  • Training, coaching or mentoring
  • Consider a career break (in cases of burnout or for caring for a relative)
  • Where bullying, harassment or discrimination is concerned the employer should follow their procedures for managing this

Personal stressors

  • A phased return to work
  • An assessment of whether the person has the skills, capabilities and personal qualities for the post
  • Refer the employee to other agencies if there are lifestyle issues such as financial problems, or drug or alcohol issues

Stressors outside of work

  • Refer the employee for counselling
  • Consider flexible working arrangements either on a temporary or permanent basis

Further reading

HSE – Work related stress → ACAS – Stress in the workplace → The above is an extract from SBS's new HR Online Resource Centre. If you have found this article helpful and would like to find out more about purchasing the Resource Centre for your school or academy, please contact the HR Service Desk on 0345 222 1551 • Option 6 or for email a quote.