Executive opinion

10 May 2021

Rob Vondy explains how organisations can lower the risk of work-related stress, anxiety and depression.

THE RATE of work-related stress depression and anxiety has increased in recent years, and the last year has presented new challenges that have never been faced before. In 2019/20 work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill health and 55% of all days lost due to work-related ill-health. There were an estimated 828,000 workers affected which results in an estimated 17.9 million working days lost. These statistics do not yet account for the full potential effects of COVID-19, which is having a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of the workforce.

Work-related Stress is a priority health topic for HSE and features prominently within its Health and Work Strategy. April is Stress Awareness month and we’re looking to highlight our practical guidance and support to organisations to help them tackle the risk. Recognising the signs of stress[2] will help employers to take steps to prevent, reduce and manage stress in the workplace.

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 risk assessment templates, a talking toolkit to help start conversations, a workbook that provides step by step guidance, posters, a new mobile app and a new automated stress indicator tool (SIT). For more information see the stress section of

These tools help employers focus on the underlying causes of workplace stressors and the practical steps that will help to prevent them. 

A challenge!

So, now you know where to get more information, I’d like to set you a challenge. Start a conversation on Work-related Stress with a colleague today. Or, if you are a leader in your organisation, start a conversation with the board. By opening up a meaningful conversation about Stress, Anxiety and Depression organisations can support their workforce and engage them in solutions.

Rob Vondy is head of stress policy at the Health and Safety Executive. For more information, visit