Stress - Manager Guidance

1. Indicators of Stress

Changes in behaviour or work performance can often be signs that staff may be suffering from stress.

If a member of staff is displaying some of the changes in behaviour referenced in the table below, then it may be appropriate to conduct a Stress Risk Assessment. Staff are required to contribute to the risk assessment process to identify and eradicate potential stressors within the workplace where possible.

The stress risk assessment process is managed by Human Resources. You should contact a member of your Faculty HR team to discuss the stress risk assessment process.

Heads of Department and line managers may notice some of the following symptoms occurring within their department or area of responsibility. Where after some initial investigation a manager feels that there may be underlying stress issues, they may wish to contact the Human Resources department to seek further advice. Stress indicators can include:

  • Excessively high levels of sickness absence;
  • Excessively high staff turnover;
  • Significant increase in accident levels;
  • Significant increase in the number of grievances, disputes or complaints;
  • Considerable reduction in performance levels.

Common indicators of stress (CIPD, April 2020)

Work performance

  • Declining/inconsistent performance.
  • Uncharacteristic errors.
  • Loss of motivation/commitment.
  • Lapses in memory.
  • Increased time at work.
  • Lack of holiday planning/usage.

Conflict and emotional signs

  • Crying.
  • Arguments.
  • Undue sensitivity.
  • Irritability/moodiness.
  • Over-reaction to problems.
  • Personality clashes.


  • Arriving late to work.
  • Leaving early.
  • Absenteeism.
  • Reduced social contacts

Aggressive behaviour

  • Malicious gossip.
  • Criticism of others.
  • Bullying or harassment.
  • Temper outbursts

Other behaviours

  • Difficulty relaxing.
  • Increased consumption of alcohol.
  • Increased smoking.
  • Lack of interest in appearance/hygiene.
  • Accidents at home or work.

Physical signs

  • Nervous stumbling speech.
  • Sweating.
  • Tiredness/lethargy.
  • Upset stomach/flatulence.
  • Tension headaches.
  • Rapid weight gain or loss.

2. Preventative measures

There are a number of steps that can be put in place and resources that can be used to alleviate pressures and prevent excessive stress from occurring. These preventative measures will have a greater impact the earlier they are implemented:

  • Empower staff to control their own workload;
  • Ensure resources are available to cope with demand;
  • Ensure staff feel adequately trained and supported to do their jobs well;
  • Consider the annual cycle and ensure that staff are available during busy periods;
  • Consider whether it is appropriate to provide additional support for staff during periods of change and uncertainty;
  • Encourage participation in stress management and relaxation activities available through the Staff Wellbeing programme;
  • Promote healthy behaviour and exercise;
  • Consider using working to improve work-life balance;
  • Highlight the support that is available through the employee assistance scheme Health Assured.

Line Managers may take action to alleviate pressures should they find that a member of staff is suffering from excessive stress, in order to prevent potential sickness absence.

For example, managers can offer short term solutions, where reasonably practicable, such as allowing more flexible working arrangements or shorter working days for a set period of time. Where this is agreed it would need to be recorded as an authorised paid absence within myTeam.

3. Preparation for a Stress Risk Assessment

The following webpage may be utilised to Prepare for a Stress Risk Assessment.

4. Concerns for employee safety

If a member of staff is expressing thoughts of self-harm or is in a very distressed state and where they are already receiving GP care for mental health issues the manager can ring the GP surgery and notify them of their concerns. The GP may arrange an urgent appointment or they may be referred directly for hospital assessment.

If the member of staff is not under the current care of a GP and urgent medical advice is required for their mental health wellbeing, it is acceptable to ring their GP surgery and request an urgent appointment. Alternatively the member of staff may be escorted to the local NHS Walk In Centre for immediate medical treatment.

5. Links to other policies and procedures

Where a staff member feels that their manager is the cause of the stress the Dignity at Work Guiding Principles may provide useful guidance and support.

Where a staff member is absent from work with a stress related illness, or there is a reoccurrence of an earlier problem, managers should refer to the Sickness Absence Management Policy and Procedure.

Where problems have arisen with a staff member’s work performance or conduct, the manager will take a fair and reasonable course of informal and/or formal action to resolve issues and aid improvement through the Capability or Disciplinary Policy.