Some elements of stress in our lives can be healthy as it makes us prepare for certain challenges or actions.  However, if stress becomes out of control it can lead to serious illness resulting in severe depression or anxiety. Over 105 million working days are lost each year due to work related stress and it affects one in five people.  It is therefore important that every Employer recognises if their workforce is stressed and does something about it.

How do I know if Employees are too stressed?

  • Look at sickness absence figures. Is there a significant increases in absence levels in a specific area or do certain Employees have a high number of days of sick.
  • Look at Employee Turnover. Are individuals leaving in a particular area or is there a high Employee Turnover generally?
  • Analyse exit interview data. Are leavers citing workload pressure or bullying and harassment as reasons for leaving?
  • Analyse productivity data. Are their dips in certain places where Employees are lacking motivation or conversely is there too much workload?
  • Conduct performance appraisals. Does the Employee feel happy and supported in their role?  Do they feel any pressure from internal and external sources?
  • Hold informal discussions with Employees? Ask how they are feeling.
  • Hold focus groups with Employees to discuss any challenges they may be facing.
  • Conduct attitude surveys to gain information on how Employees feel about their role etc.
  • Conduct return to work interviews following a period of absence. If the absence is due to work related stress draw up an action plan to try and manage it.

HSE Management Standards

The HSE has produced some management standards in order for Employers to understand the triggers causing stress and how to try and stop it. The following is a general summary of them.


What do I do if someone is absent from work due to work related stress?

  • It is important that action is taken as quickly as possible. Ensure that if an individual has stated that their reason for absence is work related stress and they are absent from work for a short period that a return to work interview is carried out as soon as they return to ensure that any developing stress related illness is dealt with immediately.
  • If the individual has been absent from work due to work related stressfor a long term (4 weeks or more) then regular contact must be made with them to support them in returning to work as quickly as possible. If necessary send the individual to Occupation Health or get a medical report from their GP to assess the extent of their illness.
  • Keep in regular contact with the Employee’s GP. Review the situation regularly with medical advice ensuring that positive action is taken to alleviate the cause of the stress as soon as possible.
  • Anyone returning following a period of long term sick due to work related stress should have a return to work interview. If necessary use the HSE Stress Questionnaire. carry out any necessary stress assessment.
  • An action plan should be agreed with the Employee on how best to accommodate their return to work. This could include a staged return, making any reasonable adjustments to the role along with clarification of the role in order for both parties to understand what is expected of them.

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