Work-related stress

Stress is a mental and physical condition. It happens when pressure affects how well we perceive we can cope. The sources of such pressure or demand are called stressors.

Work-related stress (WRS) is the conditions, practices and events at work which may give rise to stress. Work-related stress is caused or made worse by work.

There are positive and negative types of stress. Positive stress gives a sense of challenge and excitement. Negative stress causes worry, anxiety and agitation.

Information:

HSE Work Positive

For the first time, elements of employee health, safety and wellbeing are integrated into one online risk management process.

Symptoms of stress

Stress has many signs and symptoms.

Symptoms of mental stress (how the mind works):

  • indecisiveness
  • finding it hard to concentrate
  • poor memory
  • feelings of inadequacy
  • low self-esteem

Symptoms of behavioural stress (the things we do):

  • finding it hard to sleep
  • change in eating habits
  • smoking or drinking more
  • avoiding friends and family

Symptoms of physical stress (how the body works):

  • tiredness
  • indigestion and nausea
  • headaches
  • aching muscles

Symptoms of cognitive and emotional stress (how we think and concentrate):

  • irritable or angry
  • anxious
  • feeling numb
  • hypersensitivity (easily hurt, worried or offended)
  • feeling drained and listless

Preventing work-related stress

HSE’s approach to managing work-related stress focuses on risk assessment and hazard reduction. This approach aims to identify potential risks, put control measures in place and engage collaboratively with staff to address hazards.

Table 1: Interventions to support you in responding to work-related stress - organisation and employees (non-exhaustive list)

Table 1: Interventions to support you in responding to work-related stress - organisation and employees (non-exhaustive list)
Intervention Type: Organisation: Healthcare Workers:
Intervention Type: Primary:
aim of primary interventions is to prevent stress from occurring by removing the sources of stress and enhancing the causes of well-being thereby reducing the need for future interventions.
Organisation: Risk Assessment Training
Management training e.g. Mentoring First Time Managers Training
Implementation of Corporate Safety Statement
Site/Service Safety Statement
Health and Safety Policies
Creating and investing in safe and health work environments
Implement Dignity at Work Framework
Supporting Your Staffs Mental Health – a programme for HSE Managers -HSELanD training.
Healthcare Workers: Selection & Assessment & best practice recruitment processes
Pre-employment medical examinationHealth & Safety Training catalogue on HSELanDLocal InductionCorporate Induction- HSELanD trainingTraining ProgrammesAnnual Work Reviews Personal Development Plan -HSELanD trainingDignity at Work - HSELanD
Intervention Type: Secondary:
aim of secondary prevention is to reduce the severity or duration of stress once it has occurred and to prevent the level of stress becoming problematic
Organisation: Using best practice recruitment processes
Induction process training on HSELanD
Providing identified training requirements to HCWs
Providing any needed coaching, mentoring and support for the employee
Providing performance feedback
Access to competent H&S advice and support
Access to Organisational Health
Access to Occupational Health and EAP
Staff Engagement
Healthcare Workers: Stress Management Training & Workshops
Health Promotion, e.g., focus on individual healthAccess to Occupational Health and EAPPersonal and Interpersonal skills trainingStress Control ProgrammesConsultancy & AdvisoryAccess to specialised clinical services for employees that need them
Intervention Type: Tertiary:
aim is to manage, rehabilitate and minimise potential harm.
Organisation: Confidential advice, guidance, support or counselling
Access to specialist clinical services for managers that need professional advice
Healthcare Workers: Access to support services EAP confidential supports advice & counselling
Critical Incident Stress ManagementOccupational Health Services

Manager responsibilities

As a manager, you are responsible for:

  • ensuring employees are aware of the Policy for prevention and management of stress in the workplace 2018 (PDF, 1.5MB, 44 pages)
  • promoting a positive and supportive work environment
  • carrying out regular risk assessments on stressors like work demands and changes in working practices
  • communicating to employees any change in the workload, work environment or work patterns
  • giving your staff an opportunity to discuss work-related stress
  • completing the 'Supporting your staff mental health - a programme for HSE managers' (available on HSELand)
  • recognising the signs of stress in yourself and others.
  • not engaging in behaviour that may give rise to stressors in the workplace
  • supporting your staff

Stress at work risk assessment

As a manager, you should complete a workplace risk assessment together with an individual employee or with their team to identify stressors in the workplace.

The risk assessment measures 6 key potential sources of stress at work:

  • demands - excessive demands or conflicts in the working environment
  • control - having inadequate say over how work is done
  • support - having inadequate support from managers or co-workers
  • relationships - being subjected to unacceptable behaviours including harassment or violence
  • role - not understanding roles and responsibilities
  • change - not being involved and informed in organisational change

You should put a plan in place to reduce employees' exposure to workplace stressors.

A risk assessment should be carried out :

  • proactively with an individual employee or collaboratively with a team; or
  • with an individual employee or with a team that may be experiencing workplace stress

Employees responsibilities

As an employee, you are responsible for:

  • protecting your safety, health and welfare, and that of others, including efforts to prevent or reduce stress
  • reporting to your manager any work practices that cause unnecessary stress
  • taking part in risk assessments and control measures
  • not engaging in behaviour that may give rise to stressors in the workplace
  • attend relevant training
  • work with your manager and colleagues to reduce any work stressors

Support and advice for employees

It is normal for us to feel under pressure and experience stress symptoms at various times in our working and private life. Learning about stress reactions and how stress impacts us, helps make it more manageable.

You can try and prevent work-related stress by:

  • talking things through with someone can help lessen stress or anxiety
  • not trying to appear strong and managing everything by yourself
  • contacting Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) - a free counselling service for staff

You should raise issues relating to stress with your manager.

Your manager may, if you agree, refer you to a support service.

This could be:

You may contact these support services directly. You can do this without discussing the issue with your manager. You can also ask your General Practitioner (GP) for support and to manage your health from a medical perspective.

The HSE has a number of health and wellbeing programmes to support staff

Support and advice for managers

As a manager, you should familiarise yourself with the Policy for prevention and management of stress in the workplace. This sets out the framework for preventing and managing stress in the workplace including line manager role and responsibilities relating to risk assessment.

See also:

HSE Health and Safety Helpdesk

Phone: 1800 420 420

Monday to Friday 10.30am to 12 noon and 2.00pm to 3.30pm