Informa Markets

Author Bio ▼

Charlotte Geoghegan is Event Manager for Safety & Health Expo and SHP at Informa Markets. She is responsible for content, strategy and sales of physical events and digital products. She is also an active member of the Women in Health and Safety committee.Before Charlotte went into this role she was Head of Content for the Safety & Health Expo, SHP, IFSEC, FIREX and the Facilities Show. She joined Informa (previously UBM) in 2015.Charlotte has spent 10 years in media & events and her academic background is in modern foreign languages. You can find her on LinkedIn here
May 23, 2023

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Speaking up for those who can’t speak for themselves – In conversation with Carole Spiers, Business Stress Consultant

Ahead of EHS Congress, taking place in Berlin this week, SHP catches up with one of the event’s speakers, Carole Spiers, who is Chair of the International Stress Management AssociationUK and Founder of International Stress Awareness Week.

Carole Spiers

Carole is a seasoned professional counsellor who, upon witnessing the impact of stress in the workplace, was inspired to shift her focus to industry. With over 20 years of experience as a business stress consultant and CEO of the Carole Spiers Group, she firmly believes that workplace stress can be mitigated through proactive measures yet notes that many organisations are falling short in this regard.

In the following interview, Carole highlights why addressing workplace stress should be a top priority and shares actionable steps that both organisations and managers can take to support colleagues promote overall business success.

Charlotte Geoghegan (CG): You’re spending a lot of time working with people who are trying to manage workplace stress. What are some of the biggest challenges that you see?

Carole Spiers (CS): Increased absenteeism, loss of talent, people concerned about their jobs and increased anxiety. All of which results in low performance and low productivity. Right across the board, we’re seeing stress is endemic in industry. Can we manage it? Yes, we can. Do we have to be proactive about it? Yes, we do have to be.

CG: What are the barriers to people speaking up about feeling stressed?

CS: In a healthy workplace culture, it’s important for employees to feel comfortable talking about stress and mental health issues. However, if there’s a stigma surrounding these topics in organisations, employees may be hesitant to speak up. To create an environment where employees feel confident sharing their concerns, it’s essential to foster a culture where open communication is encouraged and accepted.

Whether you’re working from home, in the office, or in a hybrid environment, an unhealthy workplace culture can be detrimental to employee wellbeing. This can lead to employees avoiding speaking up about their challenges due to fear of negative consequences or being perceived as weak. By prioritising a culture of openness and support, you can create a more positive work environment where employees feel valued and supported.

CG: I know that you have said that a structured approach from the top is the way to grow healthy corporate culture and tackle stress. What do you mean by that?

CS: A healthy corporate culture starts at the top, with C-suite executives who actively support and promote it. This means prioritising people over profits and ensuring employees feel valued and recognised in their work environment.

One way to achieve this is by proactively promoting the employee support services already in place. If organisations have stress, workplace bullying, or dignity at work policies, make sure they are easily accessible and clearly communicated to all employees. By demonstrating that you value your employees and are committed to upholding these policies, you can help to foster a positive and supportive work culture.

If you offer an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), make sure it’s promoted effectively. Many employees may not be aware of the counselling services available to them through an EAP. By highlighting the benefits of the programme and making it easily accessible, you can help to remove any stigma or uncertainty around seeking help.

Similarly, if you have mental health first aiders, ensure they are promoted throughout the organisation. This can help to raise awareness of mental health issues and reassure employees that support is available when they need it. By actively promoting these resources and policies, you can help to create a culture where employee wellbeing is a top priority.

CG: Let’s say you’re talking to a senior health and safety professional who wants to focus on managing stress at work within their organisation, but they find that those around them don’t care. What can they do?

CS: If you truly believe that your employees are your most valuable asset, but you’re working alongside colleagues who view people as expendable resources, it can be a challenging situation. In order to prove your point, it’s important to gather data and evidence to support your belief.

One way to do this is to speak to HR and request data on key metrics such as absenteeism rates and talent retention. By understanding the impact of employee satisfaction and wellbeing on the organisation’s bottom line, you can make a compelling case for investing in a positive and supportive work culture.

It’s no secret that happy employees are more productive and engaged in their work. When people enjoy what they’re doing, they’re more likely to work hard not just for themselves, but for their colleagues and the business as a whole. By building trust and rapport with your employees, you can create a workplace environment where people feel valued and motivated to give their best effort.

Ultimately, investing in a positive work culture and prioritising employee wellbeing can lead to greater success for the organisation as a whole. By demonstrating the value of your employees and creating a supportive work environment, you can help to achieve long-term success and growth.

CG: What is the role of managers in workplace stress management?

CS: Employers have a legal obligation to protect their employees from workplace stress by conducting a stress risk assessment and taking action based on its findings. If you have fewer than five workers, you are not required to document the assessment, but it can be beneficial to do so for future review. However, if you have more than five employees, it is a legal requirement to document the assessment.

Managers must be vigilant and detect the early signs and symptoms of stress in their team members, as they are essential to managing stress before it becomes a major issue. This means that managers must be trained to actively listen. Not all managers possess listening skills as part of their managerial toolbox, and many are promoted for their technical abilities rather than their people management skills.

If someone on your team is displaying signs of stress, take it seriously before the situation escalates. Never dismiss it or wait for it to resolve itself. Let them know that you are available to listen and provide support. Begin a dialogue. You could point out any behavioural changes that you have observed and highlight any signs of stress that you have noticed. Ask them for their viewpoint.

Asking “how can I help you?” and giving them sufficient time to respond can be highly effective. Just by actively listening, you can make a significant difference. In some cases, you may encourage an employee to seek help when they previously thought they could not do so.

Depending on the situation, a manager may enlist support from HR, an employee counsellor, a mental health advisor, or an external agency such as Cruse Bereavement Service, Relate or the Samaritans. There are numerous agencies available, and it is critical that managers understand that they do not need to be everything to everyone.

CG: You will be delivering a talk and workshop at the EHS Congress. Why have you chosen to speak there?

CS: My objective is to increase awareness of stress and promote stress reduction to a global audience. Unfortunately, many individuals struggle with speaking out about their stress. That’s why I feel like I’m a voice for so many others who can’t express themselves. It’s a privilege to advocate for these individuals, and I’m genuinely passionate about doing so.

I’ve worked with countless clients who have dealt with stress first-hand. Some have even experienced burnout and may never return to work. These individuals need to be heard, and the EHS Congress provides an excellent platform to reach an international audience that can truly make a difference.

If my participation in the EHS Congress can provide just two or three individuals with additional tools to manage their stress (which doesn’t need to be complex, as it’s not rocket science), it will have been worth it.


Carole is a business stress consultant with over 20 years of experience in industry. She believes that workplace stress can be reduced if organisations are proactive but feels that many are not doing enough. In an interview, she talks about the challenges of managing workplace stress and the importance of a healthy workplace culture.

Carole explains that employees need to feel comfortable speaking up about their stress-related issues, which requires a supportive culture that values employee contributions. She encourages organisations to promote employee support services such as an EAP and mental health first aiders.

When asked about how to tackle stress in an organisation that doesn’t care, Carole suggests gathering data such as absenteeism figures and loss of talent to demonstrate the negative impact of stress on productivity.

Carole emphasises that managers have a vital role in managing workplace stress by being trained to actively listen to their employees, spotting signs of stress early, and providing support.

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