Handling stress as an employer
Cathie Riley, Helplines Manager at Croner Consulting, shares advice on spotting stress in your employees and explains what responsibilities GP practices have as employers
As an employer, you are responsible for making sure that your employees’ work does not cause them to suffer the harmful effects of stress. Having built a relationship with their staff, managers should notice if someone is suffering from stress. Indicators to look out for include:
- Changes in mood or behaviour
- Relationship with colleagues, patients and supervisors has taken a turn for the worse
- Uncharacteristic irritability and/or indecisiveness
- Increased absenteeism
- Reduced performance levels
- Increased smoking or alcohol intake
- Frequent stress-related health complaints, such as headaches.
Some organisations choose to use a stress questionnaire to survey their employees on their stress levels. If you are going to use a questionnaire, make sure you design one (or choose a pre-designed one) that is suitable for the people who will be answering it. Make sure that it is not too long and complicated, as staff may find it difficult to fill in. Also, respect confidentiality and consult with staff as much as possible.
In terms of controlling stress in an organisation, the first step is to find out how prevalent it is. Common indicators include:
- Declining productivity or quality of service
- High rates of absenteeism among staff
- Disciplinary problems
- A high rate of staff turnover.
When a stressed employee has been identified, it is crucial to tackle the source of the stress, by changing the organisational culture or working practices, rather than just tackling the symptoms of stress. This can be done by providing training on stress recognition and management. Management style can significantly affect stress levels – managers should try to:
- Show that they take the issue of work-related stress seriously
- Be understanding towards staff who are suffering from stress
- Be open and receptive to what staff tell them are the pressures of their job
- Make sure that staff are adequately trained to deal with stressful situations
- Provide staff with as much flexibility, autonomy and ownership over their work as possible
- Make it clear that harassment and bullying will not be tolerated.
For more information visit: www.croner.co.uk