Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
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Loughborough University

Human Resources

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Occupational Stress - Guidelines for Managers

The University is committed to providing a safe and healthy working environment for employees through the management of both physical and psychological hazards.

This page provides further details regarding how the “Management of Workplace Pressure” policy can be implemented by Managers (both academic and non-academic).

Risk Assessment

Regulation 3 of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulation 1999 requires suitable and sufficient assessment of risk to health and safety to be carried out.  Risk assessment shall:-

  • Take account of all foreseeable hazards
  • Be completed to a consistent and reasonable standard
  • Relate to the actual work undertaken
  • Be regularly reviewed
  • Be adequately recorded

The HSE has identified the following key hazards for work-related stress. 

  • Demands – this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment.

  • Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work.
  • Support – this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues.
  • Relationships – this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour.

  • Role  – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles.

  • Change  – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation.

You will need to decide which of the above are the most significant for your area, and identify the extent of the problem.  Sources of information may include:

  • Results of University Staff survey undertaken in 2008 and 2012
  • Sickness absence reports – higher or lower than similar Schools/Departments/Support Service Sections?  Do staff come in when they are unwell?  Have you had one or more cases of stress-related illness in the department?
  • Staff turnover
  • Productivity – higher or lower than similar departments?  Higher or lower than it used to be in your department?
  • Staff opinions – which hazards do your team perceive are the most significant?
  • Performance Development Reviews (PDRs)

Evaluation and Control of Risk

 For each of the hazards identified, the following 3 questions should be considered:

  • What action is being taken already?
  • Is this enough?
  • What more needs to be done?

Try and identify areas where you can realistically make changes within the department, and make your actions points as specific as possible.  The Policy’s Guidance for Employees has some guidance from the Health and Safety Executive's Management Standards on possible measures you could take.  Further ideas may be identified through discussion with your team.

Where appropriate, refer difficulties upwards to enable solutions to be sought at an organisational level.

If there are a lot of issues, don’t try and resolve them all at once:  identify the 2 or 3 biggest problems and focus your efforts on these.  As these factors improve, you can look at other issues.

Documentation and Review

You should document your assessment and share it with your staff. At the end of this Guidance, there is an example Local Risk Assessment Form which may be helpful.

You should review it annually and also if there are changes within the University or the School/Department/Support Service Section which may increase stress levels (e.g. organisational change, risk of redundancies).

Personal management style

The Health and Safety Executive states that, “line managers have a critical role in maintaining employee health and well-being and minimising the likelihood of stressful circumstances and situations arising for their staff.”

To support this, they have developed a management tool to help managers reflect on their own personal style and consider whether they have the necessary skills and behaviors to undertake this aspect of their job.  This is available at  http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/mcit.htm 

If, through use of this tool, you identify areas for personal development, please discuss these with your Manager or with Staff Development to see what support is available.

Supporting staff with difficulties

Recognising difficulties  - Indicators in the workplace may be those which affect a group of staff or specific individuals.  These may include

  • Reductions in quality and quantity of work output
  • Excessive attendance, such as working long hours and at weekends (“presenteeism”)
  • Erratic attendance
  • Poor timekeeping
  • Increase in accidents or dangerous occurrences
  • Increase in sickness absence
  • Employees coming in to work when sick
  • Deterioration of workplace relationships

Personal and health symptoms experienced by individuals may include the following:-

Physical - tiredness, panic attacks, shoulder and back ache, appetite disturbance, light headedness, high blood pressure, tingling in arms and legs, insomnia, indigestion, headaches, lowered resistance to infection, skin problems

Emotional - anxiety, despair, depression, frustration, irritability, moodiness, anger, tearfulness, withdrawal, loss of interest and pleasure in life, rapid mood swings, anger and aggression

Mental - impaired perception, lowered concentration, circular thinking, reduced problem-solving skills, poor judgement, indecisiveness, reduced creativity, inaccuracy, reduced motivation.

Discussing difficulties - Where an individual identifies that work factors are causing them problems, an early discussion with the line manager (or other appropriate person) may identify possible solutions.  This discussion may usefully be structured around the key hazards identified by the Local Risk Assessment Form

It is equally important though to continue to show empathy, compassion and provide support for employees suffering with personal life related matters (e.g. financial matters, relationship difficulties). An employee who feels supported at work is more likely to be able to deal better with their other issues, and therefore be able to return to normal performance in a shorter timescale. 

An Individual Risk Assessment form that can be used to facilitate and document such a discussion is available.‌ 

Referring On -   It may be appropriate to also consider referring an individual for further support.  Options include –

Human Resources - contact the appropriate HR Adviser for your School/Department/Support Service Section.  

Counselling Service - Counselling is a confidential service available to every University employee.  Self-referral is welcome.  Not a 24 hour service 

Occupational Health - To assist with risk assessment, to support individuals and to liaise with Human Resources in particular cases.  Not a 24 hour service

Confide – for cases involving bullying or harassment.

Training and Support - Training courses for managers are available through staff development, addressing a variety of topics including ‘change management’, ‘managing sickness absence’ (which may be stress related), and other management development topics. Tel. 222381 or e-mail sd@lboro.ac.uk

Staff development will also provide guidance on finding a coach or mentor to help you or a member of your staff develop skills or solve problems; and opportunities for team based development.

Information for employees

Employees can, and are encouraged to, contact any of the support services listed above in confidence. The University has also designed an Employee Guidance document as an additional annex to the Management of Workplace Pressure policy

Here are some other useful sources of support and information in addition that you may wish to point your employees towards:

Further information

Guidance on the Health and Safety Executive’s Management Standards for Tackling Work Related Stress can be found athttp://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards/index.htm

A booklet produced by ACAS includes case studies and practical guidance on resolving stress issues; it can be accessed at:http://acas.ecgroup.net/Publications/Stress.aspx



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Tel: 01509 222169

Fax: 01509 223903