Stress is a serious condition that can impact many employees. It is vital that employers recognise and identify stress, before it escalates or exacerbates other serious mental or physical health problems.

The Health and Safety Executive estimates that over 13.4 million work days were lost to stress in 2001, costing approximately £3.7 billion each year.

This article helps to identify ways that stress can be recognised and managed, and how employers can help support employee wellbeing.

Consider the demands on the employee

Is the workload reasonable? Employers have a legal responsibility set out by the Health and Safety executive to assess the risk of work related stress and to take measures to control this. Ensuring that the work level is appropriate and time demands are achievable is one way to reduce the stress of an employee.

Giving employees unrealistic targets may increase their stress and increase the employee’s dissatisfaction at work. This in turn can lead to underperformance which ultimately costs businesses potential profit.

Be aware, that acceptable levels of stress may be different for each employee.

Training and Support

Ensuring that employees are fully trained to perform their role is important. Employees who are uncertain of what they are doing or lack the capability to do the role will feel an increased stress level. Reviewing employees training and holding regular reviews will help employees feel more supported. This will be particularly important to jobs where the skills needed are in high demand in the labour market.

Training Managers

Ensuring that all managers have a consistent approach to managing stress within the workplace is important.

Training managers to listen and talk to their employees could reduce the likelihood of the employee going off sick.

Improving Team Relationships

Having a good support network doesn’t just mean having a good manager. A team of employees who support each other can help reduce stress as they have other staff members to help with workloads and to and bounce ideas off. They also have peers to turn to if they are struggling.

A team doesn’t always have to be peers who are working on the same job. They can be people in the same office or employees who carry out similar functions.

Having strong teams can also help improve knowledge sharing and reduce any key person dependencies that a business may have.

Consider an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)

EAPs are intended to help employees deal with personal problems that could negatively impact their performance at work. Many also offer the support to people living within the employee’s household as the mental wellbeing of family can also impact on the employee’s mental wellbeing.

Employee Benefits

Employee benefits such as flexible working may make the employees feel more appreciated and thus reduce their stress levels.

Working flexibly can help employees manage pressures and demands in their personal life and balance that with the pressures of work. Giving staff more autonomy over their working day can increase productivity for the time the employee is in work.

Working flexibly can also reduce level stress as employees can avoid the stress of rush hour traffic and difficult commutes. Enabling staff to reduce stress outside of work can help them better cope with stress at work.


While many employees enjoy and are motivated by challenges, ensuring that these are achievable and reasonable will help ambitious employees achieve more. When setting targets, assess each employee and the workplace ensuring you get the right balance between motivation and overloading the employee.

Having a proactive policy in place to deal with stress will hopefully avoid employees going into ‘burnout’ and impacting on the performance of the business.

For further advice on the costs of EAP programmes or managing employee stress contact Opsium.