Blue brick wall outside business with workplace stress reduction strategies
Managing risks

Prevent workplace stress: manage the risks

Employers have a legal obligation to prevent and manage psychological risks associated with mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, just as they do physical risks.

With the ever-increasing demands of jobs, the impacts to mental health and wellbeing and the costs associated with staff turnover, it makes good business sense to address stress in the workplace.

Workplace stress and fatigue can cause absenteeism. Statistics show one in five Australians (21%) have taken time off in the past 12 months because they felt stressed. In addition, leaders believe workplace stress leads to less productive employees. 71% of organisational leaders say businesses that value the mental health of their employees are likely to have a more productive workforce. 

How to manage workplace stress

In order to manage workplace stress, everyone in your organisation should be aware of the signs and causes of stress. Here are five easy steps to effectively manage stress to ensure workplace health and safety:

1. Policy

Check policies and procedures support mental health and wellbeing and align with the organisation’s core values. Disclose senior level endorsement by communicating to all staff regarding the organisation’s commitment to the wellbeing of its employees.

2. Assess your psychosocial risks

Gather information regarding the key risk factors or “stressors” for staff at your organisation by analysing the causes of any mental health issues, complaints and grievances and exit interview data. You can’t manage risks if you don’t know what they are.

Gather staff opinions about the challenges they face in their roles and in their interactions with others through pulse checks or employee engagement surveys.

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3. Prevention and management initiatives 

Develop targeted interventions to address your risks, including workplace stress programs. For example, an increase in the number of mental health claims, which have arisen from staff being exposed to aggressive clients may prompt the following:

  • review and improve escalation procedures

  • defusion training for all staff in dealing with difficult clients

  • introduction of an employee assistance program, which includes onsite debriefing.

4. Evaluation of initiatives

Evaluate the effectiveness of your mental health initiatives.

Celebrate the successes of your initiatives and communicate these to staff to continue sending a positive message to employees regarding the importance of their mental health, wellbeing and safety.

5. Persistence

Ensure any changes become part of the workplace culture and have support across all levels. They are more likely to stick if this approach is taken.

Remember, it's the employer’s responsibility to create a healthy and positive work environment. When done effectively, it can help prevent or minimise the feelings of stress arising in the first place. When stress impacts your employees, how you manage it will be the key to improving the wellbeing of your workforce and in turn productivity. 

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