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Managing stress in your organisation

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Use this page to help you recognise whether stress is an issue for your organisation, and for tips on how to manage it.

Understanding workplace stress

A certain amount of pressure helps people to achieve their best, but too much stress can be damaging to long-term health and can lead to lower productivity and higher sickness absence.

Stress is one of the major reasons for workplace absence. One of your responsibilities as an employer is to ensure that work is not overly stressful.

If your employee is more vulnerable to physical or psychological risk because of an illness, injury or disability, you have an extra responsibility to protect them.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) comments that:

Good people management is the starting point for effective prevention of stress. We believe that people work more effectively within a participative management style and are better motivated when work satisfies economic, social and psychological needs. Employers that pay attention to job design and work organisation, and equip all managers with people management skills, will better support employee engagement and well-being.

For more information, see the CIPD’s fact sheet on stress.

Measuring and analysing stress in your organisation

To find out whether stress is a problem in your organisation, you could run a stress audit. This involves talking to staff about their jobs and asking them:

  • what they find stressful and why
  • what they don't find stressful and why.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) management standards for stress can form the basis of the audit. The standards are:

  • demands – includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment
  • control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work
  • support – includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues
  • relationships – includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
  • role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles
  • change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated.

In a smaller organisation, it’s easier to spot signs of stress in individual employees. For help knowing what to look out for, see the HSE’s information on the signs and symptoms of stress.

The HSE’s return to work discussion template may be useful as a discussion point with employees on the causes of their stress and possible actions.

Tackling the causes of workplace stress

If you’ve identified that stress is a problem in your organisation, the next step is to tackle the causes. This may seem difficult in charities where high workload is an everyday reality, but drilling down to the actual reasons for stress can reveal some practical and straightforward actions you can take.

For ideas, see the HSE’s resources on stress.

Providing support when an employee is stressed

Support for employees could include:

  • counselling
  • stress-management training
  • referral to self-help resources.

Writing a policy on stress

It can be useful to have a policy setting out the steps your organisation takes to limit and manage stress.

The HSE has a free example stress policy.

NCVO members can also download our editable sample stress policy.

Dealing with personal stress

The Mental Health Foundation has a booklet on managing and reducing stress.

Wellbeing initiatives

Wellbeing initiatives aim to proactively maximise employee wellbeing, which can stop stress arising in the first place.

Find out how you can support the mental health and wellbeing of your team.

Further information

Last reviewed: 01 August 2022

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 01 August 2022

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