• HSE Guidelines

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has identified six key areas of the workplace that need to be managed and controlled effectively in order to prevent excess stress at work and stress-related illnesses. Meeting the standards in these areas significantly contributes to a culture of wellbeing, increases productivity, and decreases sickness absence.

The six key areas can also be used to assess how well an organisation is managing stress. The HSE suggests using the standards in each of the six key areas to assess the risk of stress in your organisation (see http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards/step1/index.htm). We also use them as part of our Business Stress Risk Review, which allows us to assess the causes and levels of stress in your organisation (see http://www.stressmanagementsociety.com/Conduct-a-Business-Stress-Risk-Review.html).

 

The six key areas and their standards are as follows:

 

 

Demands

Includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the working environment.

The expected standard by law is that:

Employees indicate that they are able to cope with the demands of their jobs and systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.

In practice, we need to find out whether workload pressures are excessive and whether work patterns and the working environment are enabling employees to perform well whilst not putting their health at risk.

 

 

Control

Includes how much say the person has in the way they do their work.

The expected standard by law is that:

Employees indicate that they are able to have a say about the way they do their work and systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.

In practice, this looks at issues such as flexibility, having some choice or influence about, for example, the way work is done or when to take a break.

 

 

Support

This includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues. In practice, this is broken down into peer support and management support.

The expected standard by law is that:

Employees indicate that they receive adequate information and support from their colleagues and superiors and systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.

 

 

Relationships

This includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour. In practice, this is about identifying negative and potentially damaging behaviours that cause stress such as bullying and harassment.

The expected standard by law is that:

Employees indicate that they are not subjected to unacceptable behaviours, e.g. bullying at work and systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.

 

 

Role

This assesses whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles.

The expected standard by law is that:

Employees indicate that they understand their role and responsibilities and systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.

 

 

Change

Includes how organisational change, large or small, is managed and communicated in the organisation.

The expected standard by law is that:

Employees indicate that the organisation engages them frequently when undergoing an organisational change and systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.

 

BEFORE TAKING ACTION, SOME CONSIDERATIONS

The HSE’s Management Standards are best interpreted as an overall design rather than a step by step process. Addressing the six key areas at the same time as part of a holistic framework will give you better results than tackling one area at a time. This is because the six key areas overlap and are interconnected with each other.

Before taking any action, it is important to brainstorm how exactly the standards suit your own organisation from an operational perspective. Not all standards may be achieved in a first attempt. They should be seen as the ultimate goals in an ongoing process of improvement. A second thing to consider before taking any action is that a holistic framework is best achieved when it is not only signed off but actively promoted by senior management. We suggest forming a steering group that includes members of senior management to drive the process forward. We know from experience that when there is senior management buy-in, it will trickle down to other levels of management.

For more information go to http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards/before.htm

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