It's important to talk about stress and create an open and honest environment at work. This can help employees to talk about how they are feeling, and to get the support they need.
Talking about work-related stress
Managers should be sensitive and supportive when talking to staff about work-related stress.
When a manager becomes aware that someone is experiencing stress, they should arrange an informal chat in private. They should:
- make time for the meeting in the working day
- be open minded about how the person might be feeling
- ask open questions
- listen to what they are being told
- try to identify the cause of the stress
- work together on possible solutions
Managers should support their employees by signposting to any internal or external specialist help, if needed.
Find out more about:
Acas also offers training for managers on mental health in the workplace.
If someone does not feel comfortable talking to their manager
If someone does not feel comfortable talking to their manager, they might be able to talk to someone else. For example:
- another line manager
- someone they work with
If available, they could talk to:
- a trade union representative, if they're a member of a trade union
- a mental health champion
- an employee support network
Being clear about confidentiality
An employer should reassure their employee that they will not share anything they tell them with anyone else. But if there is a good reason to do so, they should be clear about who they'll share it with and why.
For example, the line manager might need to:
- tell human resources if it involves taking time off work
- get specialist help if the employee's safety is at risk
Keeping in touch if someone's off with work-related stress
When an employee is off work with stress, an employer should have a reasonable amount of contact with them.
The employee often benefits from regular contact because it can:
- prevent isolation
- support them while off sick
- help with the return to work
However, the employer and employee should agree how often they'll keep in touch so that it's not overwhelming. It's a good idea to review this regularly and check that this contact is helpful for the employee.
Having a return to work meeting
The employer should talk to their employee when they return to work after time off with work-related stress.
A return to work meeting is a good opportunity to:
- make sure the employee is ready to return to work
- see if they need any support
- agree on a plan for returning to work, if appropriate, for example a phased return to work
- review or do a stress risk assessment
- talk about any work updates that happened while they were off
Using a Wellness Action Plan from Mind can help a manager to talk with their employee about the causes of the stress. This can help the employer reduce the risk of the employee needing more time off.
Other things to discuss could include:
- the signs of poor mental health
- what the employee should do if they become unwell, for example who to contact
- what support or adjustments they might need
Making adjustments at work
If an employee is disabled their employer must make reasonable adjustments.
If an employee is experiencing work-related stress but is not disabled, the employer should still talk with them about adjustments that might help. Often it's enough to agree simple changes to working arrangements or responsibilities with the employee.
This might include:
- flexible working hours
- allowing more rest breaks
- giving someone different responsibilities
- helping them to prioritise their workload
- providing training or mentoring
When making any adjustments, managers should:
- review them regularly to check that they are effective
- consider how to support the rest of the team so that they're not overloaded
Making an action plan
When an employee is experiencing work-related stress, they should agree with their employer what they can do to reduce it. One way of doing this is to put in place an action plan.
This should include:
- what the problem is
- the proposed solution
- what actions to take to achieve the solution
- the dates by which to achieve each action
- a date to review the plan and see if it has achieved its aim