The duty of an employer to carry out risk assessments – defined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as ‘identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace’ – is one that all employers will be aware of. Ensuring that a workplace is safe for staff members, taking note of hazards such as working with chemicals, electricity, or heavy machinery is required by law under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
However, including work-related stress as part of these risk assessments may not be something employers regularly do. Identifying factors that may be causing work-related stress and then taking action to reduce these hazards is often harder to define than, for example, ensuring all staff members are wearing the correct safety equipment when working with hazardous chemicals.
However, effectively managing stress in the workplace can have huge benefits for organisations. HSE estimates that stress, depression or anxiety and musculoskeletal disorders account for the majority of days lost due to work-related ill health: 9.9 million days a year. Each new case of stress leads to an average of 23 days off work, leaving employers without valued members of staff for significant periods of time.
Carrying out a stress risk assessment is a good way of tackling workplace stress before it becomes a more substantial issue. HSE’s Management Standards for work-related stress gives a good overview of things to consider, and on the Fit for Work advice hub, there is a detailed questionnaire and form that employers can use to carry out a thorough assessment of what may be causing stress in the workplace. This questionnaire identifies risks for employers – such as:
- Are staff comfortable with the amount of work they have?
- Have employees received appropriate training to ensure they can do their job properly?
- Do employees feel comfortable in raising concerns with managers?
- Do staff feel they are being offered adequate managerial support?
The questionnaire then suggests ways to mitigate said risks, by:
- Adjusting work patterns to cope with busy periods
- Reviewing training needs
- Taking time to understand the challenges your team members are facing
- Encourage staff to share any concerns with you
The benefits of tackling stress in the workplace are clear. The quality of working life for your employees will be better; their productivity and morale will increase; their attendance levels will go up and sickness absence will go down – all benefits which will have a direct impact on how smoothly your company runs. Visit the Fit for Work advice hub to download the stress risk assessment form or get more information on managing stress, or call the Fit for Work advice line on 0800 032 6235 to speak to a trained advisor.