April is Stress Awareness Month – five steps in five weeks

Make Stress Awareness Month the month you make it routine to prevent stress and support mental health at work – and encourage others too.

We’re inviting employers and managers to complete the 5 steps of Working Minds over the 5 weeks of April – whether that’s learning how, or actually getting stuck in.

Over the course of the month, employers are encouraged to focus on one of the campaign’s 5 Rs for each of the five weeks.

5 steps in 5 weeks: 

  1. Reach out and have conversations  
  2. Recognise the signs and causes of stress
  3. Respond to any risks identified by agreeing action points
  4. Reflect on the actions taken – have things improved?
  5. Make it Routine to check back in on how things are going.

Preventing work-related stress isn’t just the right thing to do by workers, it’s the law. All employers are required to prevent work related stress to support good mental health in the workplace.

The Working Minds campaign brings together a range of tools and support to help businesses and workers including free online learning, Talking Toolkits, risk assessment templates and examples.

Liz Goodwill, head of the work-related stress and mental health policy team at HSE, said: “Failing to manage work-related stress can cost employers in reduced productivity, sickness absence costs, or even losing a valued member of the team. Employers are required to assess the risk of work-related stress impacting their workers, and act on the risks identified.

“As well as guiding you step by step, we provide all the practical templates, tools and resources you need to get started or, you can use it as an opportunity to review what you already do. A huge part of this is making it part of your everyday working life, not just a one-off tick box that gets forgotten about.”

The CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, and The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) are the latest organisations to join as campaign partners, taking the total supporters to more than 30.

Rachel Suff, senior policy advisor, employee relations at the CIPD, says: “Many organisations are reactive and tend to put more emphasis on providing support when people become ill rather than on prevention, including for mental ill health and stress. We need both! We want to see every organisation taking a proactive approach to employee wellbeing. We’re supporting the Working Minds campaign to help employers to create the working conditions and environment that prevents stress and supports good mental health. That also means designing jobs with realistic workloads and targets, and encouraging people to have a healthy work-life balance.”

There are six main areas that can lead to work-related stress if they are not managed properly. These are: demands, control, support, relationships, role and change. Factors like skills and experience, age, or disability may all affect someone’s ability to cope.

Matt Powell-Howard, Head of Product Development at NEBOSH, said: “I’m really pleased that NEBOSH is supporting the Working Minds campaign as we are committed to promoting good mental health and preventing work-related stress.  We were delighted to have also collaborated with HSE on the development of the NEBOSH HSE Certificate in Managing Stress at Work qualification, which is designed to help business meet their legal obligations in this area.”

The signs of stress…

More reports of stress would indicate that issues may be bubbling where you work, but there are other less obvious things to consider that can mean that workers are showing signs of stress.  

A change in the way someone acts can also be a sign, for example taking more time off, arriving for work later, loss of motivation or confidence, or seeming more nervous or emotional. Across the team, this can also look like:  

  • arguments   
  • higher staff turnover   
  • more sickness absence   
  • decreased performance   
  • more complaints and grievances 

Although employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work, diagnosing and treating stress isn’t your responsibility. Your responsibility is to identify the risks of stress and act on them.  

Getting started

The most important step is getting started – taking the first step to start the conversation, or get prepared to.  

You can have conversations individually or in groups or teams, the key thing is to recognise any common stressors or issues being raised. You might also gather information such as sickness absence records and staff survey results if you have them.   

If you are an employer looking for support, a good place to start is to register for free bitesize learning.

Other helpful resources