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Lessons in Safety - December 22

10 November 2022

When it comes to work-related stress, prevention is key. Natalie Sherborne shares some advice from the new NEBOSH HSE Certificate in Managing Stress at Work, which was developed in collaboration with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

FIGURES SHOW that 1.7 million people suffered from work-related ill health in Great Britain in 2020-21. Of these, 822,000 (approximately half) were a result of work-related stress, depression or anxiety.

Employers in Great Britain have a moral and legal duty to protect employees from work-related stress as part of caring for their health, safety and welfare, and supporting colleagues’ mental wellbeing is the right thing to do. Why wouldn’t you want to maintain the health and happiness of your workforce? I appreciate that businesses need to be financially secure to pay their bills and keep their colleagues in employment, but the following information can make a compelling case that prioritising mental wellbeing is as good for business as it is for our people: 

Focus on prevention

My biggest piece of advice is to be pro-active: prevention is better than cure. Here are my top tips to help you get started, all of which are based upon learning from the NEBOSH and HSE qualification: 

  • Understand the common causes of workplace stress
    There are six key workplace stressors – demands, control, relationships, support, role and change – as well as other factors such as culture, job security and external factors. Understanding how your organisation currently manages these elements is key to creating an effective risk assessment that manages and prevents stress in your workplace.

  • Use the Health and Safety Executive’s simple management standards process. This consists of the following steps:

    • Get started – secure commitment and support from leadership, then establish steering groups to help share ideas, take action and assign responsibilities. 

    • Identify risks – understand workplace stressors and gather and evaluate information to understand the associated risks. 

    • Create an action plan – develop, organise and prioritise interventions using the information and evaluation gathered. 

    • Monitor and review – repeat some of the earlier information gathering activities, look at the data and review how your actions are influencing employee wellbeing. 

  • Communication is key
    Establish and maintain two-way communications channels with employees and key stakeholders such as leadership and steering groups. Surveys and absence data provides quantitative information but prevention is key and early information – such as that provided by focus groups or line manager feedback channels – can help you to be proactive.

  • Prioritise your actions by implementing interventions which will be the most effective in addressing workplace stress. Characteristics of successful interventions include: 

    • Managerial commitment

    • Worker involvement

    • Organisation-wide engagement 

    • Integration with existing organisational systems

    • Adequate resource

  • Use tools and resources already available
    The HSE’s Talking Toolkit provides guidance on having conversations with people, focused on the six key workplace stressors. 

    The Thriving at Work toolkit also provides a selection of free resources, all intended to help employers can better support all employees, including those with poor mental health or wellbeing, to remain in and thrive at work. 

NEBOSH HSE Certificate in Managing Stress at Work can be studied through NEBOSH’s network of accredited Learning Partners, offering options for both online and classroom learning. 

Natalie Sherborne is product development manager at NEBOSH. For more information visit:www.nebosh.org.uk/hsestress