Andrew Kinder: Employers must be proactive on stress

Ill health through workplace stress can result in various behaviours and actions, ranging from increased levels of regular or unexplained absence, poor concentration, low motivation, being anxious, excessive frustration, mood swings and becoming increasingly isolated from other team members.

When it comes to managing stress and its impact on the workplace, it is important that employers take a proactive approach.  There are many techniques and preventative measures that employers can take to manage stress.

Line managers have an important role to monitor the behaviour of their teams and identify potentially stressed employees. Naturally, they need to be equipped with the skills to identify the signs and symptoms of stress and understand how they can best use, for example, their employee assistance programme (EAP) to talk directly with the employee.

In one-to-ones or appraisal discussions, a manager can check to see if employees have the support and resources to do what’s expected of them before they get stressed. The culture of an organisation also has an impact on stress in a workplace. Are people encouraged to raise issues of concern? And are they aware of the support available to them to manage issues contributing to workplace stress, such as their EAP or occupational health teams?

You might not know all the answers to solving the problem of workplace stress, but a great place to start is by talking with employees. Use employee surveys to ask people how they’re feeling and ask them to help identify the factors in their job that they think contribute to overwhelming pressure.  Work here also needs to integrate with formal health and safety risk assessments that are carried out to identify staff groups with higher psychological risks.

So, getting feedback direct from employees and then responding with a plan is invaluable and will put you in a good position to do something positive about this serious business issue. 

Andrew Kinder is chair of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association