Stress

<Back

Mental health and stress problems accounts for 30 per cent of the total sickness absence in the NHS.

Print section Ask a Question

All you need to know in 30 seconds

  • Stress accounts for about 30 per cent of NHS sickness absence, and can lead to long-term illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
  • Open up conversations about stress with your staff. You don’t need to be a mental health expert, just emphasise that your aim is to support their wellbeing.
  • Be approachable and make time to listen to and support your staff. Have protected time when staff can speak to you, and regular catch-ups to discuss workloads and stress management.
  • Monitor the workload of your staff to ensure it is manageable; this will help your staff identify and manage their own causes of stress in the workplace.
  • Promote a good work-life balance and associated organisational policies, and encourage staff involvement in physical activities and social events.
  • Ensure staff know about resources available to deal with stress, such as occupational health services and Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs).

All you need to know in detail

Although stress itself is not an illness, prolonged exposure to unmanageable stress can lead to long-term illnesses, such as anxiety and depression. Therefore managing stress is a key part of your role in creating a mentally healthy workplace.

While stress is sometimes seen as a challenging issue to talk about, you don’t need to be an expert in mental health to support your staff. Having open conversations with staff about their stress can make a big difference to how well they are able to manage it.

Be clear about the reason you are speaking to the member of staff, as well as emphasising that you are talking to them to support their wellbeing. Reasons why you might want to speak to an employee about stress include poorer performance, lateness or any changes in their behaviour that you or colleagues have noticed.

It is important for you to be seen as approachable and make time for your staff. Have protected time when staff can speak to you, as well as regular catch-ups. Catch-ups with staff are an opportunity to start a conversation about managing stress and for this to be seen as a normal part of line management.

You can support your staff to manage stress by:

  • monitoring the workload of your staff to ensure it is manageable; this will help your staff identify and manage their own causes of stress in the workplace
  • reducing the financial impact of workplace stress and absence on staff
  • encouraging staff to have a good work-life balance, including being involved with social events and physical activities, which are shown to boost staff health, team work and mental wellbeing
  • promoting and teaching staff about relevant organisational policies, such as flexible working
  • treating all your staff consistently and fairly, and providing positive feedback to them when they do a good job
  • making staff aware of the internal resources that are available to them such as occupational health or Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs)
  • following-up problems on behalf your team as soon as they arise.

The Health, Safety and Wellbeing Partnership Group published guidance the prevention and management of stress at work. The guidance includes information on:

  • defining stress, signs of stress and examples of stress symptoms
  • identifying causes of stress in the workplace
  • the impact of organisational change on stress
  • how you can effectively measure stress in the workplace 
  • management behaviours which have a positive and negative impact on stress at work
  • the importance of working in partnership

There is also a useful checklist on how to implement an effective stress management policy.