Managing Stress

Another area that impacts on staff performance is stress and as a manager you are responsible for the management of stress at work as part of your overall responsibility for the management of health, safety and welfare of your staff at work.

Most people experience stress at some point in their lives and stress affecting people in different ways. In many cases the root cause is not work, yet the impact results in poor performance/ absenteeism or relationship difficulties at work. It is therefore essential you have some understanding of the effects and causes of stress on both the individual and organisation, in order to take preventative measures.

What is work-related stress?

Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them. This definition distinguishes between the beneficial effects of reasonable pressure and challenge and work-related stress caused by demands or pressure with which the individual perceives they are unable to cope.

In terms of the impact of stress on staff you may see changes in morale, decline in work performance, high levels of sickness absence, complaints of harassment and/or turnover of staff may be indicators of stress in the workplace.

As noted in Section 2 of the Toolkit the key thing is to get the work environment right in the first place and your role as a manager is crucial in creating a working environment that helps to avoid undue stress and most importantly preventing the employee becoming ill as a result of workplace stress.

Wellbeing and Performance

In managing performance it is key to consider the health and wellbeing of individuals. In summary the key areas to be aware of include:

  • Reviewing annual leave can be a key component to managing health and wellbeing and mangers should be aware that all staff make use of their annual lave provision in line with the working time regulations.
  • The University Health and Safety Services team (that includes and occupational health provision) can offer advice where individual raise workplace concerns relating to physical factors or health issues.
  • Also ensure that you are aware of illnesses and absences and that these are recorded. This can be beneficial to managing health and wellbeing. Increases in short term absences can indicate early difficulties with health and allow proactive support to be offered early on. You should also be aware that absences aren’t masked by using annual leave.
  • There are a wide range of Employee Support Policies which provide guidance on other opportunities which mangers and staff can utilise.

Scenarios and suggested actions to undertake – Stress Management

Scenario Informal considerations for managers Immediate Actions to take Short term considerations Long Term

Signs of inability to deal with the role due to stress

Stress can be caused by a number of factors and therefore you should consider the following:

  • Is the member of staff under considerable work pressure?
  • Is the pressure permanent or short term?
  • Has sufficient support or training been provided for them to be able to undertake their duties effectively?
  • What are working relationships like in the workplace? Are there any difficulties?
  • Is the team experiencing a great deal of change that may be impacting on the individual?
  • Is it the impact of external events which is having a detrimental effect on the individual to undertaken their duties effectively?
  1. Arrange to meet with the individual, in private, as soon as possible to express your concern for them and a wish to understand how you can best support them
  2. Depending on the reason or mix of reasons for the stress develop an action plan that could include a mix of:
    • Provision of training and development
    • Encourage self-referral to the Occupational Health Practitioner
    • Self-referral to the Staff Counselling Service
    • Discuss any broader issue that could be impacting on the member of staff e.g. working relationships
  • If any difficulties are shared, consider what support can be offered e.g. counselling, coaching, Occupational Health support, work adjustments etc.
  • Consider changing the individual’s duties, if possible, and pending medical advice to take away the duties or contact that seem to be causing the symptoms.
  • If additional medical advice is needed, the Occupational Health Practitioner will obtain this from a hospital specialist or an Occupational Health Physician.
  • Work with HR and / or Occupational Health on an action plan and go through the Work Based Stress Case Management Stress Checklist
  • In addition, you need to assess the impact of these arrangements on other members of the team, acknowledge the additional work they are carrying out and guard against them becoming stressed.
  • Discuss with HR how this links to the Attendance Management Policy.

Potential change to duties.

In the last resort use the capability process.

Stress due to external events

  • Arrange to meet with the individual, in private, as soon as possible to express your concern for them and a wish to understand how you can best support them.
  • Explore if there are any reasons behind this e.g. problems at home, childcare difficulties, and health problems and consider what support you might offer.