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Executive opinion - September 22

14 September 2022

Jennifer Webster explores how organisations can lower the risk of work-related stress, anxiety and depression.

WORK-RELATED Stress is a priority health topic for HSE and features prominently within its Health and Work Strategy. Recognising the signs of stress and then taking action will help employers to take steps to prevent, reduce and manage stress in the workplace. This strong focus on worker health and safety, in turn, benefits organisational performance.

I’ll be joined by HSE colleagues to host a free, virtual HSM webinar this October to raise awareness of the preventative measures that organisations can take to identify and manage work-related stress and we’re reaching out to organisations to get involved. More details on that below.

HSE launched its campaign ‘Working Minds’ in November 2021. It calls for a culture change across Britain’s workplaces to get employers to recognise and respond to the signs of stress, making it as routine as managing workplace safety.

The intention is to increase reach, and drive action, on preventing work related stress to promote, support and sustain good mental health in the workplace. Key to the success of the Working Minds campaign is collective efforts to raise the profile of stress and the impact it has on mental health and business.

What should you do?

Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it. The earlier a problem is tackled the less impact it will have.

If you already have a risk assessment in place, consider whether you need to re-assess the situation due to changes and challenges brought about by COVID-19. Social distancing, working from home and all the other safeguards that have been put in place may have changed or created new stress.

Stress affects people differently – what stresses one person may not affect another. Factors like skills and experience, age or disability may all affect whether an employee can cope. Employees feel stress when they can't cope with pressures, demands put on them and other issues. Employers should match demands to employees' skills and knowledge.

Six key factors to consider

Employers should assess the risks in the following areas. If not properly managed, they are associated with poor health, lower productivity and increased accident and sickness absence rates.

  • Demands – workload, work patterns and the work environment

  • Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work

  • Support – encouragement, sponsorship and resources available to workers

  • Relationships – 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 change (large or small) is managed and communicated.

Help and guidance is available

HSE has a range of practical support and guidance including a risk assessment template, a talking toolkit to help start conversations, a workbook that provides step by step guidanceposters, a mobile app and an automated stress indicator tool (SIT). For more information visit www.hse.gov.uk/stress

So, register for HSE’s free, live, virtual webinar 10:30am on Tuesday 18 October 2022

Promoting Good Mental Health in the Workplace: Using risk management resources from HSE including a new training qualification developed with NEBOSH.

In this event HSE will raise awareness of the preventative measures that organisations can take to identify and manage work-related stress. The process of identifying conditions in the workplace that can cause stress and addressing them before they cause harm is the most effective way of ensuring that workers go home healthy and safe at the end of every working day. This strong focus on worker health and safety, in turn, benefits organisational performance.

This event will give you access to HSE experts and the HSE risk management approach, official HSE training, resources, products and services and a chance to ask us questions.

Jennifer Webster is a chartered psychologist and registered occupational psychologist at HSE. For more information, visit www.hse.gov.uk