Experts urge employers to have open and inclusive workplaces and to develop clear policies on stress and mental health
According to a YouGov poll, 33% of workers believe their company is ineffective at managing work-related stress, prompting Acas to publish new advice for employers on stress in the workplace.
A similar percentage (34%) thought their workplace was effective at managing stress while 23% neither agreed nor disagreed.
“Our poll reveals that there are employers who are good at managing staff stress but a third of employees feel their organisation is not good at handling stress at work,” said Acas Chief Executive, Susan Clews. "It is vitally important for employers to be able to spot and manage the signs of stress as it can lead to staff exhaustion, low morale and reduced productivity if it is not properly managed.”
Signs of stress include poor concentration, difficulty making decisions, irritability, being short-tempered, tearfulness, low mood, tiredness and avoiding socialising. Stress may be caused by the demands of the job, workplace conflicts, poor working conditions, or factors outside of work like bereavement or financial worries.
Another Acas poll in March revealed 63% of employees felt stressed due to the rising cost of living, while 41% of respondents to a Sodexo Engage survey reported it has harmed their mental health. This survey also revealed 33% of UK employees have faced mental health challenges at work, with more women (49%) affected than men (35%).
Consequently, Acas published new advice for employers on spotting the signs of stress, helping manage it, and creating an environment at work where staff can openly talk about it. It includes being approachable and available for staff; respecting confidentiality; being sensitive and supportive when talking about work-related stress; and signposting to internal and external help, such as financial advice.
“Businesses need to ensure they are creating workplaces where mental health is treated with the same level of importance as physical health.”
Graham James, Director at Sodexo Engage said: “Businesses need to ensure they are creating workplaces where mental health is treated with the same level of importance as physical health, where employees feel supported, valued, and empowered to prioritise their wellbeing overall.”
Alison Pay, Managing Director at not-for-profit organisation, Mental Health at Work (a subsidiary of the Mental Health Foundation) says stress means different things to different people but having a trusted colleague or manager available for a confidential, non-judgemental conversation enables us to talk about what is on our mind.
“Workplaces that are open and inclusive around mental health and have invested in awareness and skills training to manage mental health, are better at creating an environment where employees feel safe to talk about the pressures they are feeling,” she said.
Natasha Nichols, an Associate at Farrer & Co added: “Employers owe a duty of care to their employees to protect them from the risk of stress at work, and employers must accordingly make an assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees at work.”
To help prevent work-related stress, Nichols said, “Employers are advised to have clear policies on stress and mental health, encourage their employees to raise concerns, provide training to managers as to how best to deal with work-related stress and promote a work-life balance. Similarly, employees should raise awareness of issues that may be causing them stress at work, ask for help, and make use of any training and support offered by their organisation.”
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