Reducing Stress at Work
Work related stress is an ongoing issue in the UK. Recent statistics suggest that seventy million working days are lost each year due to stress depression and other mental health conditions. This is estimated to cost the British economy £70-100 billion annually; with even greater costs being paid to the wellbeing of those individuals affected.
Stress at work can be caused by a number of factors ranging for employees who are overworked to those being bullied and harassed by their colleagues or managers. Many people suffering with stress at work do not realise that there is a problem to begin with. Common signs include:
– Panic attacks;
– Low mood;
– Personality changes;
– Difficulty breathing;
– Difficulty sleeping.
However if these symptoms are ignored they can lead further problems with some individuals suffering a complete breakdown and feeling unable to return to work for prolonged periods.
It is vital that employers recognise the need to provide emotional support to their employees and endeavour to assist in ensuring individuals stay in employment. Recently Deloitte UK rolled out a scheme to assist employees suffering with mental health problems. This included a network of ‘mental health champions’ who are available for informal chats or to provide advice. The emphasis was to break down the stigma associated with mental health problems and create an open and supportive environment.
From a legal perspective employers have a duty of care to their employees to protect them from an injury to their health attributable to stress at work. Therefore employers who fail in their duty could be exposed to claims for compensation. If employers are made aware of an employee suffering work related stress the following should be considered:
1. Early involvement of occupational health to facilitate a return to work/ measures to mitigate future stress;
2. Staggered return to work to ensure employee is ready and capable;
3. Reduction in duties/ support in handling work load where the employee complains of being overworked;
4. Full investigation into complaints of bullying and harassment with feedback given to the affected employee.
Active management of work place stress is beneficial for both the employer and the employee. A survey conducted by mental health charity Mind states that 60% of workers feel more loyal and motivated when their employer invested in methods to support their wellbeing. Employers who undertake these methods will have a committed work force reduced stress days and will avoid potential claims for stress at work.
Article by Roisin Patterson Litigation Executive