The Council recognises the importance of promoting a culture and environment in which mental wellbeing and resilience is encouraged and supported. Creating a workplace where our employees are valued and are able to do their work well is a key factor in helping them achieve good mental health.

This "How to" supports the implementation of the Council's Mental health & wellbeing policy and is part of the Council's safety management system.

  1. Table of contents

Managing work pressures to prevent and minimise stress

Falkirk Council recognises that unmanaged and excessive work pressures or demands can lead to people feeling stressed. Whilst work pressures can in most cases motivate individuals, if these pressures are excessive or unmanaged they can result in employees experiencing adverse reactions.

Work pressures can be managed effectively through applying the Health & Safety Executive's Management Standards to work design:

  • Ensuring work demands such as workloads, work patterns and the work environment are appropriate
  • Supporting our employees in the workplace
  • Ensuring employees understand their role within the Council and prevent them from having conflicting roles
  • Working with our employees to provide them with control over how they do their work
  • Fostering positive relationships between employees and service users
  • Engaging with our employees to manage organisational change effectively

Management standards

Management standard Description Standard Action to be taken
Work demands Work demands include issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment. The acceptable standard is that employees indicate that they are able to cope with the demands of their job and there are local systems in place to respond to individual concerns.

Work demands can be managed effectively by ensuring that:

  • Demands placed on employees are achievable and appropriate in relation to their agreed hours of work
  • People's skills and abilities are matched to the requirements of their job
  • Jobs should be within employees' capabilities
  • Employees' concerns about their work environment are addressed
  • Implementing Anytime Anywhere working practices where possible
  • Considering flexible working requests
Control Control relates to how much say an employee has in the way they do their work. The acceptable standard 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.

Control can be managed effectively by ensuring that:

  • Where possible, employees have control of the pace of their work
  • Employees are encouraged to use their skills & initiative to do their work
  • Where possible, employees are encouraged to develop new skills to help them undertake new and challenging pieces of work
  • Employees are encouraged to develop their skills
  • Employees have a say over when breaks can be taken
  • Employees are consulted over their work patterns
Support Support covers the encouragement and resources provided by the Council, line managers and colleagues. Employees indicate that they receive adequate information and support from their colleagues and managers, as well as, there are local systems in place to respond to individual concerns.

Supporting employees can be managed effectively by ensuring that:

  • Council policies and procedures offer employees appropriate support in the workplace
  • Systems are in place to enable and encourage managers to support their employees
  • Systems are in place to enable and encourage employees to support their colleagues
  • Employees know what support is available and how and when to access it
  • Employees know how to access required resources to do their job
  • Employees receive regular and constructive feedback
Relationships The promotion of positive working is the best way to promote positive relationships between colleagues and our service users. Employees indicate that they are not subject to unacceptable behaviours and there are local systems in place to respond to individual concerns.

Employees' relationships can be managed effectively by ensuring that:

  • The Council promotes positive behaviours at work to avoid conflict and ensure fairness
  • Employees share information relevant to their work
  • Employees know how to access the Council's Dignity at Work and Management of Violence and Unacceptable Actions policies.
Roles Employees should know how valued their role is by the Council and we will make sure individuals aren't given conflicting roles. Employees indicate that they understand their role and responsibilities, as well as, having local systems in place to respond to individual concerns.

Employees' roles can be managed effectively by ensuring that:

  • The Council ensures, so far as reasonably practicable, that the different requirements it places on employees are compatible
  • The Council provides employees with information to enable them to understand their role and the organisation
  • The Council ensures that the requirements we place upon employees are clear
  • Employees know how to raise concerns about potential conflicts of interest under the Code of Conduct
Change Change considers how well organisational changes, large or small, are managed and communicated through the organisation. Employees indicate that the Council engages with them frequently when undergoing an organisational change and systems are in place to respond to any individual concerns.

Work demands can be managed effectively by ensuring that:

  • Demands placed on employees are achievable and appropriate in relation to their agreed hours of work
  • People's skills and abilities are matched to the requirements of their job
  • Jobs should be within employees' capabilities
  • Employees' concerns about their work environment are addressed

Support for managing work pressures

Support is available to assist in ensuring work pressures are managed effectively. These include:

  • Regular supervision or 1-1's between an employee and their line manager. This enables open discussion and helps reduces work pressures employees encounter by intervening early before work pressures become a problem.
  • The Tough Conversations course can help individuals manage difficult conversations with colleagues and service users.
  • Coaching is available from the Organisational Development team to help employees develop solutions to work based problems. Employees looking to improve their coaching skills can also attend the Introduction to Coaching training course.
  • Mentoring can be a helpful tool to identify solutions to particular problems.
  • All managers can complete the stress management competency indicator to identify their strengths and weakness to prevent and reduce stress at work.
  • Referring employees to Occupational Health and counselling where appropriate.

Managing stress at work

Despite the best efforts to manage work pressures, in some cases employees may be affected in such a way that they begin to experience stress. We recognise that work related stress is not considered a sign of individual weakness and can be an outcome of failing to manage work pressures effectively. Additionally, whilst the causes of someone's stress may not be work related, in many instances changes can be made to working arrangements to help reduce the impact of stress.

We believe that early intervention and employee engagement are fundamental aspects of preventing employees from experiencing stress and reducing and impact.

Signs and symptoms of stress

Work related stress is an adverse reaction to excessive work pressures. People will show signs of stress differently. However some common signs of stress can include:

  • Increased absenteeism or presenteeism
  • Increased smoking or alcohol consumption
  • Increased accidents or mistakes at work
  • Bullying or harassment of other people
  • Tiredness/lethargy
  • Rapid weight gain or loss
  • Changes in behaviour

We encourage all staff to be open and honest about the impact of work pressures on both themselves and colleagues. We recognise that work pressures are something that can be controlled and managed to reduce both the likelihood that someone will experience stress and the impact that stress has.

In instances where either individual employees or groups of employees are identified as experiencing work related stress a stress risk assessment should be undertaking to identify the sources of stress and what actions need to be progressed to better manage the work pressures identified.

Identifying employees experiencing stress

There are a number of ways that employees who are experiencing stress may be identified:

  • Individual employees may self report to their line manager that they are experiencing stress at work
  • Individual employees may cite stress as a reason for absence from work
  • Managers may identify that employees are experiencing stress at work
  • Groups of employees may be identified as experiencing poorly managed or excessive work pressures through organisational surveys
  • Trade union representatives may report groups of employees are experiencing poorly managed or excessive work pressures
  • Occupational Health may identify stress as an outcome of a referral

When a manager is made aware that an employee or group of employees are experiencing stress they should determine whether the source of work pressure(s) is easily identified or if a stress risk assessment is necessary to help identify what work pressures are contributing. If the contributing work pressure(s) are easily identifiable managers should attempt to resolve these before proceeding to a stress risk assessment.

Conducting a stress risk assessment

Falkirk Council uses the Work Positive stress risk assessment tool. This tool has been designed by Healthy Working Lives and aligns with the HSE's Management Standards.

Individual or small group (5 people or less) risk assessments

In situations where a manager (or other relevant source) decides a stress risk assessment is appropriate for an individual or a group of 5 or less employees the individual or small group stress risk assessment form should be used.

Employees should be provided with the assessment to complete individually and time provided in order to allow them adequate opportunity to identify work pressures. Once the employee has completed the assessment, they should meet to discuss the identified pressures with their line manager to develop an action plan. The employee may wish to bring a representative to this meeting. HR may also be asked to attend.

The action plan should be developed jointly between the employee and the line manager. Whilst endeavours should be made to accommodate proposed actions by employees, the Council is required to manage work pressures so far as is reasonably practicable. Actions that are not reasonably practicable or that can not be accommodated should be explained to the employee and other options explored. Where this is not possible, advice should be sought from HR.

Large group risk assessments

Where groups of more than 5 employees are identified as requiring a stress risk assessment, the manager should contact the Health, Safety & Wellbeing team to discuss the best way to manage the risk assessment process.

Non work related stress

Non work related stress can still impact on an employee's work performance.

Sources of non work related stress can include:

  • Recent bereavement
  • Family illness
  • Caring for children or other family members
  • Financial hardship
  • Relationship breakdown

An employee can self report to their manager or a manager can discuss with an employee that they feel non work related stress is affecting their work performance. In these cases managers and employees should consider what support is available to help manage the situation. Options that may provide support include:

  • Flexible Working policy
  • Occupational health service
  • Counselling service
  • Online support (including Moodjuice)
  • Outside agencies
  • Mental Health First Aiders can be a point of contact for those experiencing stress

HR should be contacted for further advice.

Absence due to stress

Employees who are absent from their work due to stress or a stress related illness must be referred to Occupational Health in line with the requirements of the Managing sickness absence policy.

Managing sickness absence policy

Stress risk assessment template

Stress risk assessment template