When Ian walked into the café I barely recognised him. It wasn’t just that he wasn’t wearing his usual sharp suit, he seemed to have shrunk and his usual smile and twinkling eyes had disappeared.
Ian was a member of the board, he managed a team of 5 and budget of millions! He had a beautiful wife, gorgeous children, wore a signet ring, Lived in a NICE part of London – He was posh!
He belonged to a club that I aspired to (at that point in my life!), so even though I’d seen the Dr’s notes and spoken to him on the phone, I wasn’t prepared for the person who turned up in front of me.
Ian had been signed off for stress for the past 3 months, he’d exhausted his company enhanced sick pay and was receiving statutory sick pay that wouldn’t make a dent in his outgoings. So he’d met us to discuss coming back to work, but it was obvious that he wasn’t ready yet. I watched him deflate when I said we’d need a fit note from his doctor and for him to see our occupational health team before he could return.
It turned out that this wasn’t the first time that he’d experienced stress and anxiety at work, and even though he’d felt it coming on, he didn’t mention it to anyone because of the stigma attached to his condition.
We worked with Ian’s doctor and therapist and he returned to work in a phased manner when he was ready ….
But I was angry that we’d failed him as employers, he hadn’t felt comfortable to share his mental health issues and therefore get access to help before he became unable to attend work.
Also, we had a duty of care, was his manager lax in ensuring his workload and external pressures were being monitored? When was the last time he’d had a 1-2-1?
Did you know that Stress Management is one of your responsibilities as a business owner as part of the health and safety regulations?
This experience led to a series of changes being implemented to ensure that Managers were aware of the warning signs of stress and anxiety in their team members and were having regular 1-2-1 meetings.
Remember the top four reasons for absence due to stress and anxiety in the workplace are:
Lack of support: 14%
Changes at work: 8%
Violence, threats or bullying: 13%
Do you and your managers regularly check on the mental health of your staff?
Here are some tips for dealing with cases of stress:
Treat stressed employees in the same way as those with a physical health problem.
Discuss the issue with the employee and demonstrate that you are concerned with their health.
If their work is being affected, explore the option of a referral to Occupational Health.
Ask if there is anything as a manager you can do to help/try and identify the stressors.
Seek advice from the employee on any action that could be taken to alleviate the stress e.g. simple modifications to work for a short period, increase communication etc.
Advise the employee about sources of help e.g. Employee Assistance Programme.
Document agreed actions and actively follow up to ensure stress levels have been reduced.
Review and if necessary modify the work tasks and responsibilities of employees who have had sickness absence due to stress as a result of their work.
Be aware of the impact of stressed employees on other members of staff.
If you are concerned about stress in the workplace, contact us to discuss how we can assist you.