How should employers be managing employees who claim to be stressed?

If an employee reports that they are suffering from work-related stress the employer should immediately conduct a risk assessment to evaluate the stressors that the employee is exposed to at work. If the risk assessment identifies areas where stress is evident, the employer should work with employees to agree realistic and practical ways to tackle it.

This can be managed in an action plan that identifies the following:

• The problem or stressor
• The way in which it becomes apparent (how it can be identified)
• Any proposed solution
• Changes that need to occur to make the solution viable
• Action dates and individual accountability (where appropriate)
• A review date

While identifying work-related risks and taking preventative measures should help minimise stress for most staff, it may still affect some team members due to issues inside or outside of the workplace. Managers should be prepared to help and support a team member experiencing stress.

Where a manager thinks a team member may be experiencing stress, they should approach the matter because without talking to the team member, it is impossible to know what is affecting them. Organisations should encourage staff to talk to their manager if they think they are becoming unwell. Creating a working environment that proactively supports staff who become unwell will make it easier for staff to tell their manager if they are experiencing stress.

If an employee approaches their manager to advise they are experiencing stress, the manager should:

• Arrange to have a private conversation
• Give time to the employee – be patient and allow time to talk
• Remain focused on what they say, seeking out solutions
• Be open minded about the likely cause of the stress
• Suggest potential solutions

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