Managing Workplace Stress

Workplace stress is the second biggest cause of workers-compensation claims in the workplace. The first relates to manual handling. Employers’ responsibilities include keeping your employees both physically and mentally healthy in your workplace.

The World Health Organisation defines stress as; “the reaction people may have when presented with demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope”.

Employers must take steps to provide employees with supervision, training and information to do their job. They must ensure that work can be undertaken in a way that is safe and without risk to employees’ psychological health.

 What is good stress?

A manageable level of stress can have useful impacts on employees. This includes keeping them motivated, helping them manage deadlines and increase their productivity.  It can encourage staff to upskill and develop their careers.

Long term exposure to extreme levels of stress is a hazard to employees’ health and wellbeing.

What is a work related stress hazard?

The following are some examples of a work related stress hazards.

  • The content of the job required

This includes the design of the tasks required and whether the work is monotonous

  • The pace of the work required, how quickly it needs to be done and any time pressure involved
  • Working hours including both long and unpredictable working hours
  • Dealing with difficult customers
  • Lack of control
  • Job insecurity
  • Lack of career development
  • Unfair performance schemes
  • Unclear job descriptions or role uncertainty
  • Relationships in the workplace including conflict, bullying, and social support
  • Organisational culture issues such as poor communication or poor leadership
  • Conflicting demands with home life
  • Work environment including excessive noise or lack of space

What is a “healthy job?”

This is one where the work you are doing matches your abilities. It ensures that you have adequate resources to perform your work. It provides support to you so that you can complete your tasks. It provides you with a level of control over the amount of work that has to be completed.

What is an unhealthy job?

One where a staff member has no control over the level of work and no support. It is a job where demands and pressure are greater than a staff members abilities

The impact of stress

Stress can have both mental and physical impacts on an employee including

–       Headaches

–       Poor health and increased absenteeism

–       An impact on their relationships

–       An impact on their work performance, job satisfaction and engagement


 What can an employer do?

An employer has obligations under legislation to ensure their workplace is both healthy and safe. Risk management processes are required to consider not just physical safety but the stress levels of their employees.  Employers should recognize that a stressed employee has implications for productivity, staff morale and staff turnover.

These are some ways to reduce workplace stress.

  • Recognise and respect your employees. This goes a long way towards making them feel like they are contributing to the success of an organisation.
  • Work together with employees to identify ways to reduce the impact of hazards in the workplace. This might include brainstorming ways to reorganise or improve tasks, shift or communication
  • Ensure your team members have adequate support systems
  • Have procedures for identifying work place stress hazards
  • Have procedures for reporting work place stress incidents
  • Ensure leadership and communication are highly valued within your organisation.

Consider your own current role – are you facing any of the challenges we have listed as a work place stress hazard? What can you do to reduce its impact on your own stress levels?

Safety People can help your business source talented Health and Safety Professionals. Does your business need to investigate hazards relating to stress and implement reduction measures? We can help you find the right candidate.