General practice is under particular pressure from workplace stress and burned-out staff. Here we look at some ways to manage these situations and bring about improvements in wellbeing
Being a GP brings a plethora of workplace pressures. Despite being an extremely varied and rewarding career, a recent RCGP survey found that 42% of GPs in England were “likely or very likely to leave the profession in the next five years”, with nearly half of those suggesting burnout or stress as the prime reason.
Tackling stress, anxiety and depression in the workplace is a tough endeavour for any organisation. Fundamentally, it may be difficult to spot the signs. Still, the issue remains vitally important to ensure staff productivity, protection, and wellbeing all year round, at all levels of employment.
Here are some recommended steps you can take to help you recognise and tackle poor mental health in the workplace.
Develop a stress management policy
Make sure you have clear, robust policies that outline your organisation’s commitment to assisting with these issues. The aim of the policies should be to set out the actions that you will take and who will maintain responsibility for this.
Understand the causes
Workplace stress, anxiety and depression can be caused in several ways. These include unrealistic workloads, working overly long hours, poor communication from management, job uncertainty and isolation from colleagues.
Personal issues may also be influencing an individual’s wellbeing, such as relationship or financial issues, a recent illness or bereavement or a major life change.
Identify the signs
Although symptoms will differ from person to person you need to be vigilant in looking for the common signs. These include:
- Becoming withdrawn or isolated
- Work standards decreasing
- Frequent sickness absences
- Poor timekeeping
- Becoming short-tempered or irritable
- Suffering from persistent headaches, nausea, tiredness or palpitations.
Meet with the employee
Take care not to assume what is affecting the employee until you have had a chance to speak to them directly. All conversations you have should be approached in a calm, supportive and positive manner and the meeting should take place in quiet and private surroundings.
Consider additional workplace support
Work with the employee to explore areas in their daily working life that are causing their condition or making it worse. In many cases, small alterations to working arrangements can help to ease pressures affecting the employee.
Provide additional support through an Employee Assistance Programme
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) can offer additional support to your employees. They operate by offering confidential assistance and advice through various mediums, including the phone, online and face-to-face.
Know how to manage related absences
Employees in this situation may take time off work to either address their wellbeing or deal with the situation that is causing the stress. You should arrange to speak to them regularly to get updates on their situation, avoid placing any pressure on them to return to work, consider whether a phased return would assist them and be prepared to examine adjustments to their working environment.
Know how to properly support the employee on their return to work
On their first day back, you should hold a return-to-work meeting to reaffirm the ongoing support they will receive. You should also provide them with an update on any key developments they may have missed and make sure they are aware that they can come to you if they experience any ongoing issues.
What is the risk of getting it wrong?
If an employee feels like they haven’t been supported adequately, they could raise a grievance. In that situation someone impartial would need to chair a grievance hearing with them. This could lead to resignation if they are still unhappy, and subsequently a constructive dismissal claim. As this could be linked to a long-term health condition, there is also the risk of a discrimination claim. Remember you can’t prevent an employee taking you to tribunal. You can only put measures in place to make the tribunal easier to defend.
Make sure employees are aware of the support available to them
It is no use having procedures and policies in place to assist employees in these situations if they are not aware of the help they can receive. Encourage them to be familiar with all policies, to provide constructive feedback on existing processes and attend any courses you offer such as a stress management course.
At Croner, we’ve been working with organisations for over 80 years to ensure that employers can support their staff. If you require specific support with tackling stress, anxiety, or depression in your workplace then Medical Protection members can contact our experts at 01455 639 125, quoting 35810.
In addition to free advice provided by Croner’s dedicated advice line, Medical Protection members who feel they may benefit from Croner’s service receive an exclusive 25% discount.