How stressed is your workforce? A guide to stress risk assessments for your staff

How stressed is your workforce? A guide to stress risk assessments for your staff

Stress is something that can severely affect your employee’s performance. To help you find out if it’s an issue with your team this blog explains how to do a stress risk assessment and what you can do to reduce it.

And it’s a big problem, according to the latest Labour Force Survey, 822,000 workers were suffering from work-related stress in 2020/21, and stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 50% of all work-related ill health. Work-related stress has been further exacerbated by the pandemic, and burnout and presenteeism are now increasingly prevalent in the workplace.

A recent study by the Stress Management Society identified that 65% of people in the UK have felt more stressed than ever before since the COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020.

There are many different causes of stress at work, and while it’s impossible to eliminate all stress for employees, there are steps you, as an employer, can take to reduce it. In fact, employers have a legal duty (under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974) to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it.

But first …

What is a stress risk assessment?

Stress risks in the workplace must be regularly reviewed by employers to protect employee health. A stress risk assessment must be completed every six months or sooner if there are significant changes in your organisation.

So, what exactly does that involve? A stress risk assessment examines the things in a workplace (hazards, environment, processes etc.) that are potentially harmful to staff. It requires a review of how people work and the workplace environment, and it’s a good idea to analyse absence records, staff turnover and productivity data.

Despite it being a legal requirement, there’s actually no formal document to complete for a stress risk assessment, and for businesses with fewer than 5 employees, nothing has to be written down (though it might be a good habit to adopt). There are many templates and examples available online to follow.

As outlined by the HSE*, all stress risk assessments should address the following:

  • Who might be harmed and how?
  • What you’re already doing to control the risks
  • What further action you need to take
  • Who needs to carry out the action?
  • When the action should be completed by
*HSE (Health and Safety Executive) is the government agency responsible for the regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare in the UK.

Work-related stress factors and tips for stress prevention

HSE identify six key areas of work design which can impact stress levels. These are:

  1. Demands
  2. Control
  3. Support
  4. Relationships
  5. Role
  6. Change

It’s a good structure and makes it easier to review your organisation’s work-related stress factors when considering them through the HSE lens.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the six areas where stress is most likely to manifest and if you identify a problem what you can do about it.

1. Demands

This refers to workload, hours, staffing, taking holidays, appropriate training, recognition, work environment, having the right tools and so on.

Prevention tips:

  • help staff to prioritise work
  • make sure staff take their leave
  • review workloads
  • set clear expectations and achievable deadlines
  • make sure the right skills are matched to the right jobs – remember, over-qualified engineers being matched to simple tasks can be just as stress-inducing as giving under-qualified engineers complex tasks
  • provide employees with the tools and resources that make their jobs easier.

2. Control

Control covers things like rigid work patterns, fixed deadlines and conflicting work demands (making employees feel they have no control over their work).

Prevention tips:

  • consult with workers to find out their ideas
  • set realistic deadlines
  • enable greater flexibility in hours or start and finish times
  • recognise individuality and support people to work in a way that suits them.

3. Support

This category refers to the amount of help and encouragement given to employees. Employers should consider things like,: Do staff feel supported? Is there a culture of blame? Is management-induced stress an issue? Essentially, how well-supported are staff to do their jobs and feel happy at work.

Two colleagues in overalls chatting and shaking hands

Prevention tips:

  • give staff encouragement (including when things don’t go to plan)
  • give regular constructive feedback
  • ensure staff receive regular appraisals
  • provide the training employees need to do their jobs well.

4. Relationships

Relationships in the workplace ties into culture, and this covers how colleagues, managers and clients communicate. Employers should consider: Are employees recognised? Is there a culture of recognition? (i.e. colleagues recognising contributions from each other). Is there a culture of bullying? Is the company’s communication style confrontational or disrespectful?

Prevention tips:

  • set up robust equality and diversity policies
  • create a transparent culture where problems are openly discussed.

5. Role

Role stressors include conflicting job demands or a lack of role clarity.

Prevention tips:

  • ensure comprehensive onboarding for new recruits
  • make sure all staff have up-to-date job descriptions
  • ensure all training needs are consistently met

6. Change

Any change in an organisation is a recognised stressor for employees at work. Fears around job security, inexperience, lack of skills and training for new tasks, poor communication, not understanding the reasons for change, or rushed changes all place additional strain on employees.

Prevention tips:

  • provide effective support to staff during unsettling times
  • deliver information about change in a timely and sensitive fashion
  • offer face-to-face staff consultations to ensure staff feel included (especially important for those working remotely, out in the field)
  • consider additional training needs
  • Regularly review objectives during periods of change

Spotting stress in remote workers

Stressed looking employee in their home office

This year’s theme for Stress Awareness month is ‘community’, chosen because lack of support can cause loneliness and isolation. These are common stressors faced by workers in remote teams.

Spotting the signs of stress in field service staff can be tricky. The signs displayed by tired, irritable, and anxious employees are picked up easily when you are in contact with staff all day in the office. Out in the field, stress responses are easily hidden, often for long periods of time.

There are also some unique stressors for people working out in the field by themselves. Working alone can be isolating and make people feel out of touch with the company’s vision. Lines of communication between staff and managers can easily dwindle. And when working alone, it’s easy to skip breaks. This culture of constant work can go unnoticed and is a recipe for burnout.

Stress: the bottom line

A growing body of research demonstrates that a moderate amount of stress can be a good thing – raised cortisol (our primary stress hormone) makes us more energetic, resilient, focused, and responsive, which helps to boost performance and productivity. 

But prolonged stress can easily tip us into a different state altogether. Overexposure to stress disrupts sleep, digestion, and many other functions in the body, causing problems such as anxiety, depression, headaches, weight gain, and memory and concentration impairment. 

If stress is mismanaged or not picked up at all, a stressed worker can easily become unwell with physical or mental health problems. It’s not good for the individual obviously, but it’s also madness for a business to ignore these issues. Poorly performing, stressed staff aren’t as productive as motivated, healthy, and happy ones.

Prevention and early intervention are key for minimising the impact of stress on individuals and your organisation. The stress risk assessment is a vital tool for doing just that.

Limiting stress at work with Joblogic

Employers are continually searching for the stress sweet spot – a little bit of stress keeps employees focused, challenged, and motivated, but too much and it tips into a productivity drain. All business leaders want a happy, healthy, and productive workforce. This is after all a prerequisite for lasting business success.

Equipping workers and managers with the best tools to enable them to do their jobs effectively and efficiently plays a critical role in managing stress at work.

That’s where Joblogic can help. Joblogic’s field service management software streamlines field service operations and keeps everyone on the same page. Integrate your managers and staff into a single cloud-based system, reduce stress, boost productivity, improve communications, save time, analyse performance, and empower staff working out in the field.

Are you ready to minimise stress in the workplace, while optimising the performance of your team? Book a demo or start your no-obligation free trial today.

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