Managing stress checklist

An employer who does not take action to manage the effects of stress on its employees will not get the best out of those employees and will also run an increased risk of stress-related claims. Employers should consider, and be seen to consider, the impact of stress in the workplace. This might include:

  • Carrying out a stress audit. Ask employees to list their concerns in respect of stress.
  • Using return-to-work interviews after sickness absence, performance appraisals and employee surveys to identify any underlying stress-related reason for absence or poor performance.
  • Training managers to recognise situations likely to cause stress and to identify the symptoms.
  • Implementing a stress at work policy, which should make it clear that the employer takes the issue seriously. The policy should also set out guidance on how employees should deal with the effects of stress and how they can raise concerns.
  • Consulting employees, employee representatives or unions on organisational changes.
  • Avoiding unreasonable demands being made of employees by prioritising workloads and appropriate delegation of duties.
  • Providing support through an employee assistance programme or occupational health service or providing independent confidential counselling.

Anti-stress policies

A stress policy is a statement explaining an employer’s attitude to stress (whether resulting from acts inside or outside the workplace). It should also set out the action it is taking to protect the mental well-being of its staff and how it will prevent stress and mental health problems at work arising and explain how it will deal with any problems that may arise.

An effective anti-stress policy should provide advice on the measures that will be taken to monitor and, where necessary, eradicate the effects of stress at work. This may take the form of:

  • Including stress in risk assessments. If so, it must be clear about how stress risks are going to be assessed, how they will be carried out and who will be responsible.
  • Explaining the role and expectations of managers and supervisors. For a policy to be effective, managers need to be trained to assess and manage the risks of stress on an ongoing basis. Employers need to be clear about what they require managers to do and how they will be enabled to do it.
  • Training for managers (who will implement the policy) and for staff (to raise awareness and develop skills).

It is important that any policy covers clear and open channels of communication and effective methods of investigating reported workplace incidents or behaviour giving rise to stress both with internal and external sources of support for employees suffering from stress.

Reasonable adjustments to job roles and working conditions to accommodate disabled employees or reduce causes of stress, where possible and necessary.

It should also include references to other work place policies which an employer should therefore have in operation such as anti-bullying and grievance.

A policy alone is not enough, it can only be part of an approach to dealing with workplace stress. It is important to ensure that an employer who introduces an anti-stress policy has effective means of supporting any commitments made in the policy. In particular, are the employer’s commitments reflected in the employer’s practice? Training is key to identifying the signs of stress and dealing with cases of stress. This training could be provided to all staff but will be particularly relevant for managers.

Amanda Finn can be contacted at