From ACAS to professional stress counselors, we take a look at the resources employers can use to help staff who are suffering from work-related stress.

If you’re a manager or employer who is struggling to deal with a stressed member of your team, then rest assured that there are organisations and resources out there to help. Of course, everyone has their bad days, but when employees experience work-related stress on a daily basis, it can have a huge impact on their happiness, their productivity and your business. Here in part 6 of our guide to Managing Business Stress, we’ll take a look at some of the resources employers can use to help staff who are suffering from work-related stress.

Where to get help

Why Should You Seek Help?

Although knowledge and understanding of the triggers and effects of work-related stress are becoming much more widespread, managers and employers are not stress experts. For that reason, if you have a work-related stress issue that you’re struggling to deal with, it’s important to seek help.  

The hormones that are released when a worker is stressed trigger the body’s ‘fight or flight response. Their breathing quickens, their heart races, and their muscles are primed ready for action. This response prepares them to act quickly in an emergency, but when the same stress response is firing day after day, it can have a very damaging impact on their physical and mental health. 

The physical health conditions related to prolonged exposure to stress include:

  • Headaches
  • Shoulder pain and body aches
  • A weakened immune system and greater susceptibility to viral illnesses like colds and flu
  • Stomach aches, nausea and indigestion
  • Sexual and fertility problems
  • Chest pain and heart palpitations 
  • High blood pressure
  • A greater risk of having a stroke or heart attack 

However, it’s often the impact of stress on an employee’s mental health that can be the most damaging. Workers can experience:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Low confidence
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance and alcohol misuse
  • Insomnia
  • Problems controlling their emotions
  • Suicidal thoughts

As well as being detrimental mental to the physical and mental health of your workforce, work-related stress can also have a profound impact on the performance of your business. Work-related stress is extremely common. A study by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that 17.8 million working days were lost as a result of work-related stress, anxiety, or depression in 2019/20, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

In terms of the impact on your business, a stressed workforce can lead to:

  • Decreased employee productivity and performance
  • A high error rate
  • Poor quality work
  • High staff turnover
  • Low morale
  • Poor motivation
  • Poor timekeeping
  • High absenteeism
  • Increased employee complaints 
  • Increased ill-health, accidents and incidents reports

According to Open Access Government:

“Work-related stress and mental illness account for over half of work absences – and costs British businesses an estimated £26 billion per annum.”

Clearly then, work-related stress is not an issue that you can afford to ignore.

Where Can You Get Help For Employees With Work-Related Stress?

If an employee comes to you complaining about work-related stress, then as their employer or line manager, there are several work-related stress management techniques that you can try. However, if you feel ill-equipped to deal with the situation or the changes you suggest make little difference, then you may want to suggest other places where your employees can seek help.

  • An HR manager

Your HR team should operate an open door policy with non-judgmental listening so that employees can talk through the problems they are experiencing in a caring environment. In times of stress, employees look to HR for advice and resolutions and having an open channel of communication is essential if progress is to be made. 

Once the HR team has identified the cause of the stress, there are several solutions they can put in place to try to reduce it. That includes:

  • Making changes to the working environment
  • Providing training so employees can carry out specific tasks
  • Introducing flexible working practices 
  • Providing employee wellness programmes
  • Offering paid and unpaid time-off
  • Resolving conflicts with colleagues and line managers
  • Reassigning tasks or hiring new workers
  • Letting staff go when conflicts cannot be resolved
  • Referring employees to a work-related stress specialist
  1. Counselling for work-related stress

Depending on the cause of an employee’s stress and the conversations they have with HR, they may be referred to or encouraged to contact a work-related stress counsellor. Counselling aims to identify the cause of the stress in a private and non-judgmental setting away from the workplace. 

When an employee has been keeping their problems close to their chest, talking to a neutral party can provide a sense of relief. Once the cause of the stress has been identified, they can then work with the counsellor to better understand the triggers of their stress and to develop coping mechanisms. 

There are many organisations that offer work-related stress counselling across the UK.   

  1. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS)

If you would like guidance on how to support the needs of employees who are suffering from work-related stress, then ACAS is a legitimate resource to turn to. It provides advice and guidance and training courses and events that can help you keep up to date with best practices in the management of work-related stress. 

This comprehensive advisory booklet is a good place to start. ACAS also has a helpline that you can call if you have questions about work-related stress and your legal duties surrounding it.  

  1. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a talking therapy that works to reduce stress and anxiety by changing the way an employee thinks about a situation and the thoughts and behaviours it brings. By better understanding the triggers, employees are more equipped to cope if they start feeling overwhelmed. 

Due to the growing availability of CBT, employers are increasingly using it as an effective way to treat work-related stress and to keep an employee at work. Here’s some advice from Mind about how to find a cognitive behavioural therapist

  1. Mental health charities

There are several charities out there that offer support for employees who are experiencing work-related mental health issues, including stress. Mind is one of the best. It offers:

  • Information and support by phone and email via the Mind helpline.
  • Face-to-face support across England and Wales from Local Minds. It provides services including talking therapies, peer support and advocacy.
  • Side by Side, which is a supportive online community for anyone experiencing a mental health problem.  
  1. A doctor

Any employee who is experiencing the physical or mental health conditions associated with prolonged periods of work-related stress should be encouraged to see their doctor. A doctor will be able to refer employees for counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy and provide any medical care that’s required.