Problems with stress are on the increase, so employers will need to become proficient at recognising the signs of escalating stress amongst employees and offering them support. Managers and employers should remain approachable by maintaining an ‘open door policy’ in order to encourage staff to come forward with their issues. This is clearly in the interests of the organisation as employees who are dealing with prolonged stress will not generally be at their most productive even if they have not yet shown any signs of stress-related illness. As some people are able to tolerate much higher levels of stress than others before becoming ill, employers/managers should err on the side of caution if they suspect that an employee may be struggling to cope by sensitively broaching the subject with them with the aim of alleviating their stress. It is important that employers are not dismissive of staff who report stress-related issues or are absent due to stress, as this will affect the willingness of employees to seek support.
Some questions employers could ask themselves when trying to prevent an escalation of employee stress could include the following (more information can be found on our blog on how stress at work affects employers and employees):
- Are employees completely clear what their roles and responsibilities are, and what is expected of them?
- Are potentially stressful periods counteracted by periods of fewer tight deadlines? Are employees able to predict what their workload might be over the coming weeks rather than being surprised by frequent sudden high workloads for which they were not prepared?
- Do employees have the resources, training and support available to them that are required for them to do their jobs?
- Are workplace conflicts developing within the organisation? If so, are they being dealt with before they escalate?
It is vital for employers to monitor sickness absence trends in order to keep track of the reasons for employees’ absences and to try to make it more likely that they will be at work in the future. In cases where an employee appears to be taking high levels of sickness absence, employers should be seen to be taking steps to remedy the situation so as not to damage the morale of others in the team/organisation.
For advice on managing sickness absence or supporting employees who are suffering from stress-related issue, or for guidance on any other employee health-related queries, see the Fit for Work website or call the free Fit for Work Advice line on 0800 032 6235.