Step 1 - Identify the risk factors

Members of the steering group, and others involved in the project, should understand HSE’s Management Standards. These highlight the six main risk factors for work-related stress and indicate good management practice in each of these areas:

  • demands
  • control
  • support
  • relationships
  • role
  • change

The ‘states to be achieved’ that accompany each of the standards highlight good management practice in each of these areas.

Reference to each of the ‘states to be achieved’ should be made at each step of the management standards approach.

The ‘states to be achieved’ describe the organisational behaviour that must be present to achieve the respective standard. They describe good management practice in each of the six areas of the management standards.

Understand how the management standards translate to your organisation

These risk factors do not always act individually and often overlap, combine or interact. Try to think of the job as a whole and avoid taking action on just one element of the work - a holistic approach is likely to produce the best result. For example, you may have a job that has high demand and limited scope to reduce this significantly. But by providing additional support and improving working relationships, the pressure may be reduced.

By necessity, the standards are high level and aspirational. It is useful to consider how the statements could be applied in your operational situation - what would a particular standard look like in your organisation?

HSENI does not expect an employer to meet all the standards. They represent a target for the organisation, goals that employers should be working towards through an ongoing process of risk assessment and continuous improvement.

Focus on organisational level issues

When assessing the risks to your employees, first focus on organisational level issues that potentially impact on a group and possibly large numbers of employees. It is more effective to remove a stressor or significantly reduce its impact than it is to manage lots of individual cases.

If you fail to remove a stressor more people could be affected and those ‘treated’ for stress would be coming back to the same stressor on their return to work.

Once you have put in place an organisational approach, you need to consider how to help those who may already be experiencing problems. Or there may be some issues that still require action, for example an inexperienced manager may still need additional training to become effective or someone with a mental health condition may still need reasonable adjustments to be made.

Before you begin the next step, you should ensure that members of the steering group and others involved in running the risk assessment process have a clear understanding of the Management Standards approach, including:

  • the six standards 
  • how the approach translates to your organisation
  • work-related stress risk factors that may be specific to your organisation or workplace
  • focusing on preventing and managing the root causes of work-related stress
  • focusing on exploring organisational level issues

Full guidance can be found:

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For more information please contact a mental well-being at work advisor.