How to manage your employees’ stress at work

by Redmans on August 30, 2012

  • SumoMe

In the current economic climate businesses are naturally seeking to increase their revenue and cut their overheads. The largest overhead is generally labour – a business’ staff count. Although a large amount of labour hoarding has occurred during the current recession unemployment in the UK has increased from 5.3% in April 2007 to 8% in April 2012. Businesses have clearly been cutting down on their staff numbers – either because their workload has decreased or because they’re attempting to increase profit margins by cutting staff numbers and increasing per capita productivity (or both). Increasing the workload of existing staff will inevitably lead to increased stress levels for some members of staff. This can damage productivity and morale and can even lead to litigation if the affected staff member(s) resign because of the workload. This leaves employers potentially open to constructive dismissal and/or disability discrimination claims. In this post we’ll look at ways that businesses can deal with potentially stressed staff; increasing productivity, boosting morale and avoiding litigation. We’ll therefore examine:

  1. What is “stress”?
  2. How can stress affect your employees?
  3. How should you monitor your employees for stress?
  4. What potential problems can stress in the workplace cause?
  5. What should you do if your employees are stressed because of their workload?

What is stress?

According to the Health and Safety Executive work-related stress is a “process that arises where work demands of various types and combinations exceed the person’s capacity and capability to cope”. ACAS suggests that work-related stress is caused by the following problems:

  • Demands – overloaded employees
  • Control – employees feel a lack of control over their work
  • Support – employees feel they lack support with their issues in the workplace
  • Relationships – a failure of interpersonal relationships in the workplace
  • Role – employees don’t know what’s expected of them
  • Change – employees are uncertain about their future

How can stress affect your employees?

Work-related stress is a significant cause (and exacerbation) of various illnesses and diseases and can cause staff absence, staff turnover and underperformance. These diseases may be physical or mental and will clearly affect your employees’ productivity. These are problems enough in themselves but if you fail to deal with them then it can affect staff morale. This can further affect productivity in the workplace.

How should you monitor your employees for stress?

  1. Encouragement
  2. Surveying
  3. Management


You should make it clear to employees that if they’re feeling stressed then it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Encourage them to come forward with their problems – after all, their state of mind affects their ability to do their job. If your employees feel that they’ll be subjected to a detriment because they are honest about their stress levels then they won’t come clean about their problems – it’s as simple as that.


Ask your employees to anonymously complete a questionnaire at regular intervals regarding their stress levels in the workplace. By doing so you’ll be able to monitor how employees in the business are doing as a whole and identify (and resolve) any potential problems that may be occurring. Information is power.


Train your management staff to recognise the signs and symptoms that a stressed employee exhibits. This may not just relate to signs of underperformance – the employee may be irritable, anxious or abnormally subdued. This can adversely affect other employees in the workplace. Your management staff are in the best position to spot such warning signs and resolve the problem quickly, efficiently and humanely.

What potential problems can stress in the workplace cause?

Stress can cause the following problems (among others):

  1. Underperformance
  2. Absence
  3. A drop in morale
  4. Litigation

Needless to say, all businesses wish to avoid such problems. They cause productivity in the workplace to drop and affect staff morale. Litigation in particular should be avoided (where possible) at all costs – especially if it involves employees that are still working in your business (as is often in the case in disability discrimination claims). This can further damage morale in the workplace – particularly if the affected employee is popular.

What should you do if your employees are stressed because of their workload?

You should take the following steps if you want to avoid (or at the very least minimize) work-related stress problems in the workplace:

  1. Assess – monitor your employees to determine their stress levels. Make sure that your employees know they can come to you with their work-related problems.
  2. Consult – if an employee does exhibit signs of (or notifies you of) a work-related problem then sit down with them and find out what can be reasonably done to resolve the situation
  3. Resolve – once you’ve identified the problem and a potential solution work with the employee towards this

Again, the worst thing that can happen is if your employee litigates against you. That’s generally a last resort for employees – don’t let it get that far.

Redmans are London employment lawyers with employment solicitors in Richmond. They offer Employment Tribunal representation to employers and employees and are no win no fee employment lawyers.

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