4 Feb 2019

Better work practices can reduce workforce stress


Studies show that unmanageable workloads are the greatest cause of stress at work, leading to mental ill health. Organisations need a better understanding of this to be able to act effectively to combat this ever-increasing problem.

Employers have a vital role in supporting people’s mental health at work. More organisations are raising awareness of mental health issues across their workforces (51% in 2018 versus 31% in 2016) and this is fostering a more open culture where employees are more willing to talk about their mental health. Things are improving slowly, but there’s still much more that can be done.

As managers of people – what can you do?

The effect of positive pressure or even stress in the workplace can be both creative and productive. However, sometimes and for some people the pressure may become an inhibitor to performance. For others, coping with changes or trauma in life can destabilise them significantly.

Stress can be managed better by:

  • managing external pressures, so stressful situations don’t seem to happen to them quite so often
  • developing emotional resilience, so they’re better at coping with tough situations when they do happen and don’t feel quite so stressed.

If employees mention the word ‘stress’ - don’t ignore it. Talk to them about it and help them come up with strategies that may help reduce the stress or cope with the work better.

The key to supporting staff is ensuring open communication.

As a supportive manager of people, it is good practice to:

  • Create a culture where you communicate openly about your desire to want to listen, understand and support your team
  • Ensure they know they can come and talk to you confidentially and without being judged
  • Provide opportunities to staff to talk about concerns.

If they do disclose a mental health condition or symptoms:

  • Offer reassurance that you want to support them
  • Encourage them to seek professional help (GP, Counselling)
  • Develop an action plan, i.e. identify triggers and plan coping strategies
  • Discuss protective factors (communication, diet, community, social, rest, exercise)
  • Let the HR Department know who can offer further information and support

Further information

There is a wealth of good practical guidance available for organisations on mental health, such as Business in the Community and Public Health England’s Mental Health toolkit for employers and CIPD and Mind's People Managers’ Guide to Mental Health. Mental Health at Work gateway, in partnership with Mind and The Royal Foundation, is aimed at HR professionals, employers and managers in supporting those with mental ill health at work.

To discuss this or anything else, please contact Juliet Mellues on 01793 818300 orsend her an email