Stress Risk Assessments

Workplace stress is at an all-time high and although some periods of stress are usual, when it is frequent or consistent, it can impact on our health and on our performance at work. This is why stress risk assessments are a crucial tool for employers to identify, manage and mitigate the risks associated with workplace stress.

Factors often cited as causing work-related stress, depression, or anxiety are often cited as workload pressures, tight deadlines, too much responsibility, or a lack of support.

The Health and Safety Executive found that in the UK in 2020 to 2021, 822,000 workers reported experiencing work-related stress, depression or anxiety.

This article is designed to walk you through the step-by-step process of conducting a stress risk assessment.

What is a Stress Risk Assessment?

A stress risk assessment is a carful analysis of factors in your wokrplacewhcih maybe casues stress levelsto rise. The assessment will help you to evaluate, communicate and manage the risks in your business. The law does not expect you to remove all risks but to protect people by putting in place measures to control those risks as far as reasonably practicable.

Importance of Stress Risk Assessment in the Workplace

Stress is a common challenge faced by many employees, and its impact can be far-reaching. Unmanaged stress can lead to a range of negative outcomes, including:

  • Reduced productivity and performance
  • Increased absenteeism and employee turnover
  • Deterioration of mental and physical health
  • Strained workplace relationships and poor morale

By conducting a stress risk assessment, employers gain a deeper understanding of the factors contributing to stress in the workplace, and can then implement targeted interventions to address them. This proactive approach not only benefits employees but also enhances the overall organisational performance and productivity.

Legal Obligations for Stress Risk Assessment

The Health & Safety Executive makes it clear that employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by completing risk assessments and acting on them.

Companies with five or more employees are required by law to write the risk assessment down though this shouldn’t be about creating huge amounts of paperwork. It is about identifying risks in your workplace and taking suitable measures to control them.

Evaluating Existing Measures to Manage Stress

Before beginning your stress risk assessment, it’s important to evaluate any existing measures or policies your organisation has in place to help you identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.

Consider the following:

  • Policies and procedures: Review your current policies and procedures related to stress management, employee well-being and work-life balance.
  • Training and support: Assess the availability and effectiveness of stress management training, counselling, or other support services for employees.
  • Communication and engagement: Evaluate the level of open communication and employee engagement around stress-related issues.
  • Monitoring and reporting: Examine the systems in place for monitoring and reporting stress-related incidents or concerns.

By understanding your organisation’s current approach, you can build upon existing strengths and address any gaps or areas that require more attention.

HSE’s Management Standards

HSE’s Management Standards can help identify and manage six underlying causes which, if not managed correctly, can affect stress levels. The sis common underlying causes are: Demands, Control, Support, Relationships, Role, and Change.

For example, workers may say:

  • The demands of their job are unrealistic
  • They have no control over the way they do their work
  • They get no support from management
  • They are being bullied at work, or there is a toxic atmosphere
  • They don’t fully understand their role and responsibilities
  • They weren’t told beforehand about a change which affects them, or given any support to adapt

You can look for correlations. for instance if several members in one team say they receive little support, it could indicate an issue with poor management.

Step-by-Step Guide to Conduct a Stress Risk Assessment

Conducting a comprehensive stress risk assessment needn’t be a complex or arduous process.

Step 1 Identifying your workplace stressors

The first step is to identify your workplace stressors by analysing metrics such as absenteeism, turnover and performance issues. Here are some areas you can find valuable data:

  • Conducting employee surveys or interviews to gather feedback on perceived stressors.
  • Sickness absence data: High levels may indicate a potential problem. Investigate the reasons given for absence but be aware stress-related absence is not always reported as such because of stigma or fear of job loss.
    Look at when the absences occur: is there a pattern i.el over or just after busy periods?
  • Productivity data: Compare productivity rates to previous years’ data. It may indicate a problem. Factors such as lack of training or unreliable equipment could be causing work-related stress and affecting performance.
  • Staff turnover: A higher rate of staff turnover than you would expect in your organisation, or parts of it, can indicate a problem. If you conduct exit interviews, are there any common factors or reasons for leaving?
  • Disciplinary actions: Where a manager is treating people unfairly or is unable to control workloads, it can lead to disputes which in turn can lead to disciplinary action for bullying and harassment.
  • Accidents: A rise in the number of accidents and near misses can indicate high levels of stress are compromising people’s ability to concentrate.
  • Occupational health or employee assistance programme data: It should be possible to get data from occupational health on the number of people with work-related stress issues, or who are diagnosed with such issues or associated conditions.
  • Feedback from staff: Talking to your staff can give great insight. This could be as easy as having an informal chat, or it could be put on to the agenda of a meeting.
  • Performance appraisals: These offer an opportunity to have a one-to-one discussion about work, including any excessive pressure. Team meetings can provide useful opportunities for team members to identify and share views on current issues that may be potential sources of undue pressure, for example workloads, procedural issues.
  • Informal talks to staff: You can try to find out the mood of individuals or the team. If people seem continually unhappy, are not themselves, or performing poorly, ask them if there is a problem.
  • Trade Union reps: If you have union representation, you could have specific discussions on whether work-related stress has been raised with them as a problem generally or for any individual or team.
  • ‘Walk-throughs’: Walking through a section and observing work processes may offer an opportunity to assess whether there are any obvious aspects of the job, such as the way it is done, the pace of work, or working conditions, causing excessive pressure. This is most effective if done in combination with a talk-through.
  • ‘Talk-throughs’: These involve asking someone to describe what happens when a task is carried out. They can be used to get employees to think about whether tasks have the potential to lead to work-related stress.
  • Reviewing jobs and responsibilities to check job descriptions align with job requirements.

By understanding the specific stressors your employees face, you can tailor your assessment and interventions accordingly.

Step 2 Assessing the impact of stress on employees

Once you’ve identified the potential stressors, assess the impact of stress on your employees. This can include:

  • Evaluating physical and mental health indicators, such as reported symptoms or illnesses.
  • Analysing employee engagement and job satisfaction levels.
  • Examining productivity, performance, and quality of work.
  • Considering the effects of stress on workplace relationships and team dynamics.

This will help you prioritise the areas that require the most attention and resources.

Step 3 Developing an action plan for stress risk management

Based on your findings, you can develop a comprehensive action plan to address and manage the identified stress risks. This plan should include:

  • Specific interventions and strategies to mitigate the identified stressors.
  • Clear roles, responsibilities, and timelines for implementation.
  • Communication and training initiatives to support employee well-being.
  • Monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to track the effectiveness of the interventions.

Involving employees in the development of the action plan can foster a sense of ownership and commitment to the process.

Step 4 Implementing and monitoring stress risk assessment measures

The next step is to put your action plan into practice. This may involve:

  • Implementing stress management programmes, such as counselling, yoga, or mindfulness sessions
  • Adjusting workloads, schedules, or work environments to reduce stress.
  • Providing stress management training for managers.
  • Providing training and resources to help employees develop coping strategies.
  • Introduce more support such as trained Mental Health Champions and Mental Health First Aiders.
  • Establishing regular check-ins and feedback mechanisms to monitor progress.

Continuous monitoring and evaluation are essential to ensure the effectiveness of the implemented measures and make any necessary adjustments.

When should I review the stress risk assessment?

Once you have completed your stress risk assessment, be sure to review it regularly to ensure the risks of staff being harmed has not changed and that no further measures are needed. For instance, if you have introduced hybrid working, there may be additional stressors for instance for people working from home.

You should be able to ascertain if the measures in place are working by talking to your staff and measuring metrics such as incidents and staff absences.

Resources and tools for stress risk assessment

To support your stress risk assessment efforts, there are various resources and tools available, such as:

  • Stress risk assessment checklists and questionnaires: These can help you systematically gather information about potential stressors and their impact on employees.
  • Stress management training programmes: Investing in training for both employees and managers can enhance their ability to identify and address stress-related issues.
  • Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs): EAPs can provide confidential counselling, support, and resources to help employees manage stress and improve their overall well-being.
  • Workplace well-being initiatives: Implementing wellness programmes, such as fitness challenges, healthy eating campaigns, or social events, can foster a more positive and supportive work environment.

To finish

Conducting a comprehensive stress risk assessment is a crucial step in ensuring the well-being and productivity of your workforce. By following the step-by-step guide outlined in this article, you can proactively identify and address the sources of stress in your workplace, ultimately creating a thriving, well-being-focused environment that benefits both your employees and your organisation.

Contact us today to learn more, or read about our accredited one-day Stress Management for Managers Course.

Published On: May 13th, 2024