Work-Related Stress: How do you manage increasing pressures at work?

The most recent Labour Force Survey shows that in 2019/20 there were 828,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety, statistically higher than the previous year. The number of people suffering from work-related stress and linked mental health conditions has increased over recent years. In 2019/20, stress, depression and anxiety accounted for over half of all work-related illnesses with “55% of all working days lost due to work- related ill health.” With the unprecedented and challenging circumstances of the last year, it is expected that cases of work-related stress will have continued to rise.

The Health and Safety Executive defines work-related stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work.” Work-related stress over time, especially if the pressures and stresses are excessive and over a prolonged period, can result in people developing mental and physical health issues.

Common causes of work-related stress

Work related stress can be caused by a number of factors, but the most common causes include: an excessive workload or unrealistic deadlines, being subjected to bullying or difficult relationships at work, poor management, lack of clarity as to job role and expectations and regularly being required to meet various targets and deadlines that either are unrealistic or not suitable to your expertise. People will also suffer stresses in their personal lives which may exacerbate their level of stress at work. Therefore, there are different underlying causes and triggers of work-related stress, and it is important that employers are aware of such triggers and the differences in people’s reactions and/or coping mechanisms.

Work-related stress can affect anyone in any industry at any level. Therefore, effective management and a good organisational ethos may help employers to tackle the prevalence and risks of amounting stress in their workplace.

Employers Duties

The Health and Safety Executive estimated that in 2019/20 alone, work-related ill health absences resulted in 32.5 million lost working days. There are ways in which employers can seek to reduce work-related stress and attempt to reduce the related number of lost working days. Many employers may already implement some of these measures but effective management, good communication with employees, regular risk assessments and ensuring safeguards against unreasonable demands are some of the many ways employers can look to improve the management of work-related stress in their organisation. More importantly, employers also have a duty to ensure the health and safety of their employees at work. This involves, amongst other things, undertaking regular risk assessments of the workplace and implementing solutions to prevent staff from experiencing work-related stress or other medical conditions linked to stress created from work.

By reducing the levels or risk of work-related stress amongst employees, this will enable your organisation to maintain a happier, more motivated workforce, improve individual and team performance, reduce absences and disputes within the workplace and improve organisational reputation both internally and externally.

Do you want further tips and guidance?

The mental health charity, Mind, found that 30% of staff disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed.’ This is a staggering number of people suffering in silence, which could result in long-term damage to both employees and organisational productivity and reputation.

If you, like many employers do, want to find out more about mental health, how to manage and support employees in the workplace and what steps you can take, then take a look at our Mental Health in the Workplace webinar!

Collingwood Legal are running a Mental Health in the Workplace Webinar with Jeremy Thomas, a renowned author and speaker on mental health issues on Thursday 17 June 2021. For further details and to sign up for the event, please click here.

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