April marks ‘National Stress Awareness Month’, everyone gets stressed from time to time about work, family, or life in general, but often we get confused with the difference between work related pressure and work related stress. It’s time to start taking it more seriously, and as April is ‘Stress Awareness Month’ it’s the perfect time to start learning about the different kinds of stress, what causes it, and how you can manage it effectively.

Why do we need to tackle stress at work?

Stress is costly. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 2012, around 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 – and that’s only the ones that reported it!

Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

National Stress Awareness Month is about recognising and managing stress, and educating people so it can be nipped in the bud. Anxiety and depression are linked to stress profoundly, so when stress weighs down on a person, it can lead to both of these things and is the many reason to learn to recognise the feelings and manage them. It is also important as is it can be very contagious in a working environment and could make others feel stressed too, having a severe effect on productivity and general staff mood levels.

Good Stress, Bad Stress – Stress Awareness

Not all stress has consequences, sometimes stress can be good and it’s important to recognise when it is because that good stress can push you to do the things you love. Good stress and bad stress can be confusing, but the bottom line is how you feel as it sits with you. 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, speak to your manager or someone in your organisation that you feel comfortable talking to before these symptoms arise. Alternatively, if you feel really out of control you should 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 massively help 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 –

  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