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Stress And Mental Health In The Workplace – Employer’s Guide

Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 will take place 13th – 19th May. 

Between 2022 and 2023, stress, depression, or anxiety caused most work-related ill health, resulting in a majority of lost workdays. The HSE stated that the number of days lost amounted to 23.7 million although these numbers did see a decline in 2023. On average, there were over 19.6 days taken off for stress and anxiety. 

One in four people in the UK will have a mental health problem at some point in their lives. The most common conditions are anxiety and depression. Work related stress, if prolonged, can cause both physical and psychological damage – including anxiety and depression.

Every employer wishes to avoid poor mental health in their workforce. We’re confident that employers would never want to be the cause of it. What can be done to reduce stress in the workplace? What legal requirements are there, if any?

Every employer has a duty to protect their workers from foreseeable risks. This duty involves carrying out a risk assessment (including acting to eliminate or mitigate those risks where it’s required).

Stress and poor mental health in the workplace is a foreseeable risk. In 2024, how can you support your employees in managing stress and promoting mental well-being in the workplace?

Perform a Stress Risk Assessment 

Firstly, assess whether your organisation is at risk from stress. This should be carried out using the following steps

  • Identifying what the stressors might be in your workplace – these are the Risks
  • Decide who might be harmed by stress and how
  • Evaluate the Risks
  • Record your findings – develop and implement action plans
  • Monitor and review

The HSE has advised that by adopting their management standards (available free here) and making a policy commitment to manage stressors, employers are likely to be legally compliant.

Stress And Poor Mental Health In The Workplace

Potential Causes Of Stress In The Workplace 

The HSE Standards cover six areas relating to stress:

  • Demands – this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment
  • Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work
  • Support – this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues
  • Relationships – this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
  • Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles
  • Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation

A sample of a stress risk assessment can be seen here.

While not all instances of poor mental health are work-related, they can still significantly impact one’s performance at work. For example, the Construction Industry has realised that stress, anxiety and depression has a big impact on their employees. Currently, an estimated two construction workers take their lives every day. To try and tackle this epidemic two large, industry led campaigns have been launched.

Mates in Mind, which is designed to raise awareness, address stigma and improve mental wellbeing in construction.

Building Mental Health, has created a freely available, industry-wide framework and charter. The goal? To tackle the mental health crisis in the construction industry.

Additional Steps To Combat Stress In The Workplace 

Other steps employers can take are signing up to an employee assistance program that offers free advice and support for employees. They can also develop a culture that does not stigmatise mental ill health. In place of such thinking, employers can provide training for supervisors and managers, helping them to fully understand mental health. In addition to this, employers can make sure that return-to-work interviews are handled with sensitivity and awareness of mental health concerns. 

Having a positive attitude to mental health and managing potential stress at work has been proven to help employers reduce absence, retain employees and increase productivity.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 will take place 13 to 19 May. Are you prepared to respond to your employees’ needs?

One of our team members, Ian Dakin, is a Mental Health First Aider and has experience of developing rehabilitation and stress reduction policies and practices in the workplace.

You can be one of the first to respond to signs of stress and poor mental health in the workplace. Contact Ian Dakin at Safety Management for guidance on how you can make the best decisions regarding mental health in the workplace.

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