April is “stress awareness month”. Some of us were too busy to notice.

Stress, depression and anxiety accounts for 44% of work-related ill-health and 57% of working days lost in 2017/18.

Too much (or too little) work, lack of support from managers, personal relationships and organisational change are the main causes, and as we recently reported, women experience it more than men.

Professional occupations statistically have significantly higher rates of stress, depression and anxiety when compared to all other occupations. Unsurprisingly, the sectors reporting the highest rates are health and public services and education. If you are a working mum, expect to be even more stressed.

What are the warning signs?

It easy for warning signs to go unnoticed. Managers have a vital role to play by being proactive in identifying when someone may need extra support. .

To help managers identify the warning signs of stressed staff, Acas has produced some useful guidance:

  • Changes in the person’s usual behaviour, mood or how they interact with colleagues.
  • Changes in the standard of their work or their focus on tasks.
  • Appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn and having a reduced interest in tasks they previously enjoyed.
  • Changes in appetite and/or increase in smoking and drinking alcohol.
  • An increase in sickness absences and/or turning up late to work.

You can read the guide here.

What should employers do?

Employers and managers should start by informally asking how the individual is doing, and explain the reason for their concern. Give them the space to reflect and speak at their own pace. It may be the colleague isn’t aware of how they are feeling.

As a manager, there are steps you can take to reduce stress, including reducing their workload, supervision or support or offering a couple of days rest and recuperation. There may also be workplace resources to which they can be referred, such as outplacement counselling or occupational health.

Whatever the problem, don’t just have the conversation and assume the problem is fixed. Check-in periodically and keep the situation under review.

You can read more about stress at work being on the increase here or our dedicated page for employees.

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