New guidance on managing work place stress

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the Health and Safety Executive and Investors in People have joined forces to launch new management guidance on stress in the workplace. The guidance came about following prediction that the current recession will lead to a sharp increase in work related stress claims.

The following statistics, provided by the guidance, highlight the need to address work place stress:

  • One in six people say they find their work either very or extremely stressful.
  • Work-related stress accounts for over a third of all new incidents of ill health in the UK and a CIPD 2008 Absence Management survey found stress to be the leading cause of long-term absence in non-manual workers.
  • Each case of stress, anxiety or depression leads to an average of 30.2 working days lost a year.
  • In 2007-08, a total of 13.5 millions working days were lost to stress, depression and anxiety.
  • Nearly a third of organisations responding to a CIPD 2008 Absence Management survey reported an increase in stress-related absence in the last 12 months

Not only do cases of stress lead to workplace issues, they could also lead to personal injury claims if employees suffer a breakdown or injury at work because of stress. Compensation for stress related injuries can run into tens of thousands, and more if a person is unable to work again because of their injuries.

With stress becoming an increasing issue in the workplace the UK Health and Safety Executive has published national Management Standards for work-related stress. These provide guidance on best practice for employers. The overall aim of these standards is to bring about a reduction in the number of employees who go off sick or who cannot perform well at work because of stress.

The Management Standards and supporting processes are designed to:

  • Help simplify risk assessments for stress.
  • Encourage employers, employees and their representatives to work in partnership to address work-related stress throughout the organisation.
  • Provide a yardstick by which organisations can gauge their performance in tackling the key causes of stress.

Much of the responsibility for the implementation of the Management Standards will fall on line managers. This means managers need to know what stress is; and also understand what skills, abilities and behaviours are necessary to implement the Management Standards and manage employees in a way that minimises work-related stress.

Supported by the CIPD, the HSE and Investors in People, a team of occupational psychologists have been conducting research into what behaviours managers need to show in order to prevent and reduce stress in their teams.

The following management competencies have been identified as crucial for preventing and reducing stress at work:

  • Managing emotions and having integrity.
  • Managing and communicating existing and future work.
  • Reasoning / managing difficult situations.
  • Managing the individual within the team.

However it has also been recognised that there are a number of potential barriers to managers demonstrating the above competencies, and showing positive behaviour. To overcome these barriers achieving senior management buy in is crucial, as is a robust business case, and training in specific skill areas.

For more information about managing stress in the work place, and the Management Standards visit www.hse.gov.uk/stress.