What is a Stress Risk Assessment?

02nd December 2019

Work-related stress is a worryingly common workplace health hazard. Unfortunately, it’s one that is also underestimated – both in terms of how many people suffer from it, and the impact it has.

Data from AXA Insurance predicts workplace stress costs UK businesses up £28bn every year.  Research also shows that chronic stress can have serious and long-term effects on people’s health, while the workplace is a leading cause of chronic stress.

Tie these facts together, and you realise workplace stress is probably the biggest threat facing the modern workforce.

The problem is, stress at work can be difficult to spot. As with a toxic workplace, there are many tell-tale signs but most are easy to mistake or dismiss. This is where stress risk assessments come in.

In this article, we’ll explore why stress-related risk assessments are a vital part of protecting your employees and your business. We’ll look at what they involve and who can carry them out. We’ll explore your legal responsibilities around managing stress in the workplace.

What is a stress risk assessment at work?

Perhaps obviously, a workplace stress risk assessment is an assessment specifically designed to spot potential causes of stress in a workplace.

They help you identify any stress risks in your business so you can put measures in place that reduce the risks. They also support staff to make smart choices about the way they work.

What are the benefits of a stress risk assessment?

The point of a stress risk assessment is to stop your employees being exposed to unnecessary stress. This is the most obvious benefit, but there are plenty of trickle-down benefits from there. They can:

  • Reduce instances of stress-related health problems for your employees.
    Both physical and mental health are heavily impacted by chronic stress. Minimise their stress and your staff will be healthier.
  • Increase focus and productivity.
    Plenty of research shows that employees who struggle under chronic or excessive stress are less focused and productive
  • Reduce sickness absences.
    The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that 17 million working days were lost in 2021/2022 due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. This is more than half of all working days lost work-related ill health.

Minimising work-related stress supports your workers and their well-being, but that isn’t all it does. It will also reap big rewards for your business.

Is it a legal requirement to do stress risk assessments?

 As an employer, it is your duty to protect your employees from unnecessary stress. 

This is detailed in regulations such as the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

If you have more than 5 employees, you also have a legal duty to carry out a written risk assessment. If you have less than five, you don’t need to make a written assessment but you still need to assess stress risks somehow.

How do you conduct a risk assessment for stress?

The easiest way to carry out a stress risk assessment is by asking your employees to complete a questionnaire. The HSE state this should cover all six areas they identify as leading sources of stress at work:

  • Control – how much say an employee has in their work
  • Demands – work patterns, workload, and environment
  • Relationships – positive working, conflict, behaviour
  • Support – encouragement, sponsorship, resources, line management and colleagues
  • Change – organisational change and communication
  • Role – understanding both their role and that of others

This should not be a one-off assessment either. You should monitor and review the results regularly, updating practices and measures accordingly to make sure none of your employees are exposed to unnecessary stress risks.

Can I carry out a stress risk assessment myself?

It is possible for anyone to carry out a stress risk assessment. The HSE website has advice to help with this, and you’ll also find a range of sample risk assessments online.

This said, many people choose to outsource stress risk assessments instead.

You might want to do this for a few reasons. First, an experienced professional is able to streamline the whole process due to experience. They can make the whole process as quick and easy as possible, getting the information they need without causing a disruption to your workers.

They’ll also be able to suggest effective but economical solutions to any risks. And even help you make the changes you need without too much fuss.

Another benefit of having an external team do the assessment is that may be able to get more honest answers out of your staff. Employees may be too intimidated to give negative answers to you directly but more open with an external team.

Finally, they will also be able to contextualise the results they get. They’ll be able to see which risks can and should be identified, and which may need further looking in to.

How often should you conduct a stress risk assessment?

It’s a good idea to repeat your stress risk assessments every six months. At the very least, once a year.

Minimising work-related stress for your employees is an ongoing job. Regularly repeating risk assessments will help you stay on top of any new stress hazards that could impact your employees.

You can also run additional risk assessments if significant changes are made to the way your employees work. For example, a shift between home and office working, changes to shift patterns, or peak periods such as holiday time.

It is hard to take ‘too much care’ with workplace health, so stay safe, not sorry and run risk assessments whenever you think they’re appropriate.

Can you fail a stress risk assessment?

Stress risk assessments are not run on a ‘pass/fail’ basis. This means your workplace (and your workers) can’t fail.

If your assessment shows a lot of avoidable stress in your working environment, it just means you need to do what you can to reduce it.

This might mean lightening workloads, giving your workers more control or even just clarifying your expectations of them.

Why choose David Barber OH to carry out your stress risk assessment?

Identifying and reducing workplace stress can be daunting. And it can be even worse on your own. We can ease that pressure by using our extensive experiences and proven methods to get an in-depth understanding of anything causing stress in your workplace.

Our knowledge of workplace health and wellbeing means we can also help you find ways to reduce the stress your employees experience in a cost-effective but supportive way. 

Invest in our Health and Wellbeing program and we can help your workers become happier, more fulfilled and have higher job satisfaction benefitting them and your business. Find out more about our service by getting in touch today.

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