Tackling Work-Related Stress

 

Author, Dr Yvette Martyn

Medigold Health, Specialist Registrar in Occupational Medicine

10th October marked World Mental Health Day, when many workplaces took time out of their working day to schedule time for “Tea and Talk”.  With the scent of warm brews wafting through the air, conversations about mental health were encouraged with the aim of increasing openness on the topic.  Now that the kettle has cooled and the conversation has been started, it’s the perfect time to look into long term initiatives to tackle sources of work-related mental health conditions.

Work-related stress, depression or anxiety is a harmful reaction occurring secondary to excessive pressures and demands in the workplace.  We all experience pressure at work, sometimes that can be useful for driving us towards achieving targets and to inspire us to produce our best work.  But, if that pressure outweighs our coping mechanisms then work-related stress can result.

15.4 million working days lost

The Labour Force Survey samples UK households and asks questions about work related accidents and ill health.  Their data indicated that in 2017/2018 there were 15.4 million working days lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety.  With the total number of cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/18 amounting to 595,000.  The bad news is, despite increased awareness the rate has shown signs of increasing over the last few years.

How to tackle work-related stress

Having a structured approach to the assessment of potential sources of work-related stress can be useful to indicate areas of work which could be having a negative impact on employees.  You can do this by looking at the following domains:

  • Demands
  • Control
  • Support
  • Role
  • Change
  • Relationships
The Health and Safety Executive provides guidance on how to tackle work-related stress by using the Management Standard approach.  The first step is to prepare the workplace.  Ensuring you have the backing of managers, employees, trade union reps, human resources and occupational health is essential.  The HSE then advise the following steps:

 

You can do this by looking at the domains listed above in detail.

This could involve gathering information from employees using the HSE’s stress risk assessment template alongside other workplace data, for example sickness absence rates.

This is where problems and solutions are explored. It’s really important that employees are involved at this stage, they often know the most about the issues and have the best ideas in relation to solutions.  Focus groups at this point can be a useful source of information.

This is where the changes are initiated, sticking with the domains can be really helpful in ensuring the process runs smoothly.  If you know that big changes need to be made, then you can consider piloting the changes in small groups first before rolling it out across large areas of the workforce.

The effectiveness of the action plan is assessed at this stage. Tackling work-related stress is a continuous process, so it’s essential that time is put aside to reflect, adjust and make future plans.

The Health and Safety Executive produces a wealth of information on tackling work-related stress.  If you’re worried about an employee then consider a management referral for an occupational health assessment. At Medigold Health we have a wealth of experienced clinicians who can provide an impartial assessment and advise on how employees in these situations can be effectively supported.