April is Stress Awareness Month, an opportunity to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic, held annually since 1992.

Stress has been more of an issue than ever since the pandemic hit, with disrupted social lives, cancellation of large gatherings, travel restrictions and working home alone for long periods.

A survey by the Stress Management Society has found that 65 per cent of people in the UK have felt more stressed since the COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020.

Major cause of long-term absence

Stress can manifest itself in the workplace and can place immense demands on employees’ physical and mental health and affect their behaviour, performance, and relationships with colleagues.

It’s a major cause of long-term absence from work, and it’s important that employers know how to manage the factors that can cause work-related stress. Stress-related absence can also have a detrimental effect on the business and its profitability.

Employers should conduct stress risk assessments and manage workplace activities to reduce the likelihood of stress developing.

Reducing work-related stress

The legal duty to ensure the mental wellbeing of staff means taking appropriate action in response to any employee who is suffering from stress and taking steps to prevent work-related stress from becoming commonplace across the workforce.

There are several ways for employers to meet their responsibilities and fulfil their duty of care towards their employees. These could include:

  • Implementing a work plan that promotes good mental health of all employees and outlines the support available for those who may need it.
  • Developing mental health awareness among employees by making information, tools and support accessible.
  • Encouraging open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling.
  • Providing employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work/ life balance and opportunities for development.
  • Promoting effective people management and training and supporting line managers in effective practices.
  • Routinely monitoring employee mental health and wellbeing by understanding available data, talking to employees, and understanding risk factors.

Make sure legal requirements are met

Work-related stress is a widely recognised health and safety issue, and failure to take appropriate action to prevent work-related stress or to support an employee suffering with stress could have far-reaching consequences for the business.

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