It’s National stress awareness day, Tim Frear, one of our HR partners has been thinking about mental stress hazards in the work place.
By Tim Frear
It’s The National Stress Awareness Day on 6th November and as a result we’re thinking about mental stress hazards. They can often be overlooked and with this in mind it is an ideal time to take a step back and evaluate what you can do to help others.
This blog briefly explains your responsibility as an employer. What identifying factors are there and how you can spot them in your workplace alongside as a few simple recommendations to make changes which will enhance your employees’ wellbeing.
Under the Health and Safety at Work regulations an employer must protect its employees. This is done by identifying hazards, the risk levels associated with those hazards and the control measures that have been implemented to elevate them. Most employers do this for other aspects of safety but miss the human, mental health element.
There are many organisational hazards that have a detrimental impact on the mental wellbeing of the staff; many, I’m sure will be prevalent in your workplace. These factors include; long working hours without adequate breaks away from the computer screen and away from artificial light, unrealistic or unclear deadlines and excessive workloads. Be aware of the workload pressures your team are facing. Evaluate whether you should advise or remind people to take breaks, You need to note however, everyone is different and what is good for one may not be for all. A simple conversation can help you understand what the individual may need to help them.
This leads us onto poor management of employees. This can be a hidden hazard! It includes poor communication, leadership, instruction or training along with poor guidance or instruction. Providing ongoing leadership and management development, for managers will give them the confidence and ability to properly manage their employees. With this support they will be able to effectively manage and communicate with their employees, keeping everyone happy!
Other organisational hazards may pertain to the lack of job security, especially when someone is employed on a casual or zero-hour contract. These contracts can be beneficial in some circumstances, but ongoing evaluation should be in place. If your organisation is going through a period of decline, employees feel this, either through a lack of work or business or having to go through a redundancy processes; effective open and honest communication will elevate some of this excessive stress.
People spending 40 hours a week in a confined space can often result in people getting irritated every now and then! I’m sure most of us can identify a time when they have affected us. This could include; excessive noise or a specific noise (for me it’s the crunching of crisps!), the amount of time we spend under artificial light, or within an air conditioned, sometimes cold, environment. There are many things you can put in place that can help without negatively effecting morale. These include: quiet areas for work, better natural light or appropriate adequate artificial light, access to clean smoke free outside space and refreshment areas.
As you can see many factors effect the wellbeing of employees, but how can you identify stress hazards within your workplace? We would recommend taking a step back and looking at the working environment, is it conducive to a productive team? What improvements could be made?
One of the most important ways of identifying issues is to talk to your staff. Open communication in focus groups or in your team meetings will open the door to understanding exactly where improvements can be made. Observe the team, where can you make improvements?
There are other ways you can identify hazards. Start by having a look at the sickness levels, have they increased or decreased? Have you seen an increase in grievances or disgruntled employees? Analyse the exit interviews of your leavers, identifying why you are losing staff will give you a good indication where improvements are needed.
It is becoming standard practice for companies to have mental health first aiders. This is a great start and provide an important element for all organisations. Moving forward, this should be incorporated into employee handbooks and policy documents to fully integrate into the workplace.
The workplace is a living environment and will continue to change and develop. Therefore it’s important to continue to evaluate the stress hazards and their ongoing impact on the team. You should now be one step closer to identifying them and creating a healthier and happier workplace!
For more information have a look at the International Stress Awareness Management site, where you can find more information on the subject.
Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.