National Stress Awareness Day 2016: Handling Stress in the Workplace.

Today is National Stress Awareness Day. “Stress” is a word we seem to be hearing a lot these days, yet despite Health and Safety Law requiring organisations to take appropriate combative steps, some are still lagging behind on dealing with the problem itself.


Unfortunately, it seems that stress in the workplace is a fact of life that can never be eradicated: we are all prone to moments where, despite our hardest efforts, we are still overwhelmed. However, it is essential that these moments are not a regular occurrence and that effective preventative and corrective actions are taken.

It is important to remember that stress does not only affect psychological wellbeing, but can also have physiological effects. Stress is the number one cause of long term sick-leave in UK organisations according to new figures by Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and with the current Economic Climate and high profile events occurring worldwide, it’s no wonder that employees are struggling to maintain positive mental health at work.


There are many factors that can lead to damaging levels of stress in the workplace, for example:

  • Do employees definitively know what is required of them?
  • Do employees have good relationships within the organisation and do they feel supported by management?
  • Do employees feel that they have an acceptable amount of control over their job and do they have a workload they can manage?
  • If there is a change within the organisation, is it being handled appropriately? Do all employees know enough information?
  • Is there something outside of work which is causing an employee’s stress to be transferred into or generally affect their work life?


Handling these factors is often reliant on being observant, supportive and having sufficient policies and processes in place. For example, how robust are your anti-bullying and disciplinary policies and processes? An employee must feel confident in discreetly bringing an issue to the attention of management and know that it will be dealt with confidentially, quickly and effectively.

It is also essential to have constant, high quality communication between all levels of the organisation; keeping employees “in the loop” avoids friction and helps everyone to stay on the same page. This can also take the form of appraisals in which employees and management can discuss performance, improvements, opportunities, responsibilities, job role and the near future of their role in the organisation.


However, managing workplace stress doesn’t need to be a specialist undertaking all of its own: there are a number of Management Systems which, when implemented, assist in this task.

For example, the management system OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety itself is designed to manage the wellbeing of employees, and includes requirements to comply with legislation (therefore, the requirement to adequately manage workplace stress is included). ISO9001 Quality Management is designed to assist an organisation in maintaining a high level of quality of service, and includes a clause regarding the wellbeing of employees (7.1.4 […psychological e.g. stress-reducing, burnout prevention, emotionally protective…] ).

Perhaps what is most telling about the status of wellbeing in the workplace is a recent addition to the ISO catalogue: The International Standards Organisation recently published ISO27500;2016 The Human Centred Organisation, a set of guidelines designed to help organisations maximise employee wellbeing.


So on this year’s National Stress Awareness Day, is your organisation doing all it can to manage workplace stress?

For guidance and advice on Workplace Stress, Management Systems, ISO Certification and Compliance, visit or call us on 020 3432 2854