People often get confused with the difference between work related pressure and work related stress. We all experience pressure at work – it can motivate us to perform at our best. But it’s when we experience constant pressure and feel unable to cope, that stress can result.

Why do we need to tackle stress at work?

Stress is costly. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 2012, 428,000 people in the UK reported work-related stress at a level they believed was making them ill. That’s 40% of all work related illnesses.

As an employee – How can you spot the signs of stress?

Stress can affect people in many different ways – the main symptoms are anxiety and panic attacks, depression, low energy, heart palpitations and back pain. Whatever the source of your stress at work, speak to your manager or someone in your organisation that you feel comfortable talking to. Or seek outside help and ask them to contact your employer on your behalf.

As an employer – How do you spot the signs of stress with your employees and what should you do if your employees are suffering from stress related illnesses?

As any good HR manager will tell you, having regular informal discussions (catch-ups) with your employees is a good way of gauging how they are getting on at work. If they are suffering in any way, it provides the employee with an informal platform to open a dialogue with their manager/employer. It is suggested that a monthly catch-up with your employees individually, can help to resolve any issues before they become too serious.

Under UK law, employers have a ‘duty of care’ to protect the health, safety and welfare of all employees while at work. They also have to assess the risks arising from hazards at work including work-related stress.

To help employers understand how to do risk assessments for work related stress, the HSE has identified six key areas that can be causes of work related stress –

  1. The demands of your job
  2. Your control over your work
  3. The support you receive from managers and colleagues
  4. Your relationships at work
  5. Your role in the organisation
  6. Change and how it’s managed

For more information on how to approach work related stress, whether you’re an employer or employee, see the HSEs guide to reducing stress at work.

Article compiled by: Laura Pay-Savage