HSE: take 5 steps to tackle stress at work

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is urging businesses across all industries to make Stress Awareness Month the month they tackle stress at work and make it part of their core working routine to support mental health.

HSE urges business to take 5 steps in 5 weeks to tackle stress at work this AprilBritain’s health and safety watchdog says that employers and managers alike can address stress at work this April (Stress Awareness Month) by following the 5 steps laid out in their Working Minds campaign.

They want a renewed focus on preventing stress at work and in encouraging others to talk about and manage stress and other mental health issues.

It comes as research from employment website Indeed reveals that over half of all workers (52%) are experiencing burnout, marking a 9% increase since before the Covid-19 pandemic.

5 steps in 5 weeks to tackle stress at work

The HSE’s Working Minds campaign – a long-term campaign to address mental health at work across all sectors – challenges employers to follow 5 steps over a 5-week period, these being:

  1. Reach out and have conversations
  2. Recognise the signs and causes of stress
  3. Respond to any risks identified by agreeing action points
  4. Reflect on the actions taken – have things improved?
  5. Make it routine to check back in on how things are going

Employers need to act and start conversations about stress at workThey suggest that employers can get involved in tackling stress at work this month by planning the 5 steps into their diaries and sharing the steps with their colleagues and teams.

They can also register for the Working Minds’ bitesize learning for advice, tools and templates related to mental health and stress at work, and download the campaign materials to share within the workplace and beyond.

The HSE’s message to business leaders is that “the most important step is getting started,” and they offer a Talking Toolkit for a step-by-step approach and also offer the following pieces of advice to help with this:

  • Start conversations individually or in teams
  • Recognise and record any common stressors or issues being raised
  • Gather any relevant information, such as sickness absence records and staff survey results

Identifying stress at work

The watchdog also outlines 6 key areas which lead to stress at work, if not properly managed:

  • Demands – workers are unable to cope with the demands of their jobs
  • Control – workers are unable to control the way in which they do their work
  • Support – workers do not receive enough information, guidance and support
  • Relationships – workers may be experiencing trouble with relationships at work, or they may be being bullied
  • Role – workers do not fully understand their role and responsibilities
  • Change – workers are not engaged when a business is undergoing change

They also say its important that managers and employers are aware of the less obvious signs of stress at work, including:

  • Changes in behaviour
  • Arguments
  • Higher staff turnover
  • More sickness absence
  • Decreased performance
  • More complaints and grievances

Employers must protect their workers' from stress at workEmployers have a legal duty to protect their employees from stress at work. This is covered by the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Their responsibility covers identifying the risks of stress and implementing suitable and sufficient control measures to prevent, reduce or remove those risks. The HSE offers a risk assessment template to help employers record this process.

Tackling your own stress at work

Employers aren’t, however, responsible for diagnosing or treating stress among their employees.

For employees experiencing stress at work, the first point of contact should be their line manager. However, if their problems are caused by the actions of their line manager, workers may want to talk to:

  • Their HR department
  • Worker representative
  • Worker assistance programme or counselling service if the company offers one
  • Trained mental health first aider in the workplace
  • Trade union representative
  • Their GP

People shouldn't feel ashamed to talk about stress at workMany people find the prospect of talking about stress at work daunting, with the HSE acknowledging that this is often due to the stigma surrounding stress and other mental health issues in the workplace.

The watchdog stresses: “But stress is not a weakness and can happen to anyone.”

There are also steps that employees can take to protect themselves, boost their mental health and reduce stress at work, these include:

  • Maintain a good work/life balance
  • Create a good working space
  • Define goals
  • Connect with colleagues and peers
  • Take regular breaks
  • Try to get outside during your day
  • Protect your physical health and wellbeing
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Build up your support network

Learning to support mental health at work

It's important to support positive mental health in the workplaceFirst Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider delivering courses in subjects such as health and safetyfirst aidfire safety, manual handling, food safetymental healthhealth and social care and more.

An accredited Mindful Employer themselves, FRT’s specialist mental health training courses include Understanding Mental HealthMental Health Awareness in the WorkplaceManaging StressAnxiety and Phobias AwarenessSelf-Harm Awareness and Suicide Awareness.

They can also provide qualified, approved trainers to deliver accredited Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training courses, including the Adult, Youth and Lite versions.

A trainer from FRT says:

“While stress is not recognised as a diagnosable mental health condition, it can lead to more serious mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, and can also have physiological effects.

“It’s important to recognise the severity of stress and to learn proactive and positive ways for managing, minimising and preventing stress, both in the workplace and in our personal lives.

“Stress Awareness Month is really important for highlighting the wide-reaching impacts of stress at work and throughout our lives and for shining a spotlight on the things we can all do – as individuals, organisations and communities – to prevent, reduce and manage stress and boost our mental health and wellbeing.”

brief summary of our mental health training can now be downloaded as an infographic.

We also have a number of other free infographics available to download which provide simple tips for helping to manage your mental and emotional wellbeing and proactively manage your stress levels. These include:

You can also download our free Guide to Mental Health Training from our website.

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.