10th August 2017

Are you in control of stress management?

Introduction

We all experience stress in our lives, a level of which is good for us, however too much stress can negatively impact our bodies and the way we operate. Over a sustained period of time stress can result in a lack of sleep, and illness. The health and social care sector faces stress in a variety of forms, from interacting with residents with complexed needs, life changing events, covering shifts and time critical reports, to name a few. Gone untreated it can lead to depression and anxiety and mental ill-health.

What is the cost of managing stress?

Stress is one of the leading causes of sickness absence at work and one which managers need to be aware of within their staff team. Because stress has a huge impact on how effectively we manage the care of vulnerable people, it is crucial that robust stress management plans are in place.

It is estimated that over 44% of all work-related illness in health and social care is attributed to Stress, depression and anxiety out of 192,000 self-reported work-related illnesses. According to the HSE, stress in the health and social care sector amounts to 2.1 million lost working days from stress, depression and anxiety.

The Stress Management Society claim that for every £1 invested in staff well-being would bring a return in improved efficiency and productivity of £3 – a small price to invest in staff, to see improvement.

How do I know my staff are stressed?

Tell-tale signs of workers:

  • Being less effective in the work and a pattern of mistakes/ errors in practice
  • Arriving at work late and having a number of sick days off
  • Struggling to cope with what is required
  • Becoming distant, disinterested, irritable, out of character behaviours, outburst
  • Becoming paranoid, struggling to hold a conversation and generally struggling to focus
  • Having headaches, body pains
  • You suspect they have been drinking or using drugs to cope
  • Not taking care of themselves, not being presentable at work

What can cause my staff to get stressed at work?

As a manager, you need to ensure that your staff do not suffer through an excess of work related activities which can result in illness or ill-health because of stress. Firstly, it is important to know what can stress staff and how to reduce this.

Things to be aware of:

  • Poor communication and poor leadership
  • Staff not trained in the tasks they are required to do
  • Shifts excessively long, or working too many days/nights in a row without a day off (don’t forget those who may be on-call, as this is still classed as working!)
  • Lack of gaps between day and night working making it hard for the body to adjust
  • A stressful life changing event i.e. death of a resident, serious accident witnessed without support, and debrief being offered.
  • Poor equipment, poor lighting, poor ventilation, lone working, lack of breaks in a shift

There are many more but these are just a few examples.

Stress Management and being an effective manager

Stress Management is about understanding the driver which causes staff stress and then putting a plan in place to reduce stresses through collaboration with staff, to make the work environment a better place for staff and the residents they care for. The HSE have identified 6 core management standards to manage stress in the workplace which can be found here

What is a stress risk assessment?

A stress risk assessment like any other risk assessment identifies the likelihood and probability of harm and follows the HSE 5-step process as follows:

As part of this process you need to consider:

  1. Identify the risk factors
  2. Who can be harmed and how
  3. Evaluate the risks
  4. Record your findings
  5. Monitor and review

What resources are available?

The HSE website have provided a number of resources which can assist you in managing work-related stress more effectively here

As a manager, it is important to keep updated with current industry best practice. This can be sourced through your QCS dashboard and the HSE website eBulleting.

In relation to this blog, I refer to Managing stress in health and social care.

Don’t suffer, help is at hand!

On one should suffer in silence, there are lots of useful information available and I would strongly advise all managers and senior staff to give consideration to subscribing to the HSE eBulleting This is a free resource and comes directly to your mailbox. To subscribe click here.

Don’t forget there is also ‘Ask Sheila’ if you have any questions on this or other blogs which are covered.

Show me the legislation

The key piece of legislation is The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 section 4 (3)(b) being:

“The safety of or the absence of risks to health arising from plant or substances in any such premises; that person shall be treated, for the purposes of subsection (2) above, as being a person who has control of the matters to which his obligation extends.”

And Section 4 (4) being:

“Any reference in this section to a person having control of any premises or matter is a reference to a person having control of the premises or matter in connection with the carrying on by him of a trade, business or another undertaking (whether for profit or not).”

In summary, if you are an employer, manager or person responsible for staff, then you are required to ensure activities you delegate to your staff do not put them at undue risk of stress, by having procedures in place to manage stress effectively.

References

HSE – Health and Social Care sector – statistics

Stress Management Society – about workplace stress

HSE – What are the management standards for work related stress

HSE - Work related stress - Resources and useful links

HSE – eBulleting - Managing stress in health and social care

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 section 4

The Management of Health and Safety at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2006

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Dave Bennion

Health and Safety Specialist

Dave is a multi-sited safety practitioner with extensive experienced in health and safety, fire safety, environmental management, quality and lean management consulting in a variety of industry setting. Dave is also the Director of DGB Health and Safety Ltd based in Bingley, West Yorkshire.

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