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April 4, 2022

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Stress Awareness Month – Where are we on managing work-related stress and does the ESG agenda help?

To mark the start of Stress Awareness Month, Tim Hill and Amy Sadro from law firm Eversheds Sutherland share a recent conversation around how stress is looked at now in the post pandemic world and, how as part of the ESG agenda, tackling stress can gain an increased prominence.

Amy SadroAmy Sadro (AS): It is really interesting to see how we have seen the approach to managing work-related stress change within organisations over recent years and especially during the pandemic, what do you think is causing this shift?

Tim Hill (TH): “The obligation on employers to eliminate or manage stress has always been there but my sense is that after many years of focussing primarily on the “safety” element of health and safety, organisations now realise that keeping people well is just as important.

“The coronavirus pandemic has thrown up many challenges around managing stress, we know that change is a cause of stress and while some people have been suffering from stress as a result of job insecurity or losing their jobs, others have been overwhelmed with work, childcare and other responsibilities. Of course, there is no easy answers to this but those organisations that have engaged and had a dialogue with their people and made changes as a result, appear to have been more successful overall.

“We have also seen a change in the way that the Health and Safety Executive deals with work-related stress. There has been a move away from simply providing advice and we are likely to see formal action where there appears to be a number of incidents of work-related stress across a workforce although it is not clear where that threshold will be.”

(AS): Does the current focus on ESG and how organisations become more conscious of their impact on the world around them help in giving a profile to tackling stress in the workplace?

Tim Hill(TH): “I think it does. Placing work related stress in the “S – social” of ESG certainly puts stress on the agenda for many organisations and usually at the highest levels up to the Board.

“ESG can be seen as a fundamentally different way of doing business, it’s a great platform and can change the direction of a business. Our expectations as employees, consumers and customers have increased and we expect businesses to do more. Within the health and safety world the idea of responsible business and morally doing the right has been around for many years it has just been coined as a ‘positive safety culture’, in reality this is a very similar ethos in approach to ESG.”

(AS): One of my observations is that health and safety professionals have really had to step up over the pandemic, otherwise many of businesses would simply not have been able to operate. Do you think health and safety professionals have a role to play in the ESG agenda?

(TH): “Absolutely, I think they have a central and really important role. For years health and safety professionals have been putting health and safety in the centre of organisation, they understand the importance of influencing behaviours at all levels and that a robust system of governance and assurance is needed to make sure that every activity or decision is measured against its impact on health and safety and that this is constantly evolving and improving.

“That is why undoubtedly, health and safety professionals are of huge value to organisations in how they deliver their ESG agenda and their aims around managing work related stress. I agree that health and safety professionals within organisations now have a bigger prominence than ever, and they now have an even better platform for instituting change to the benefit of their employees and others in their local and global communities.”

Click here to read the second article in this mini series, where we consider how the UK’s approach to stress and mental health compares to the approach across Europe.

If you have any questions about the topics discussed in this article or would like more information, please contact Tim Hill or Amy Sadro.

See Amy host a panel discussion on Psychological health and safety and equity, diversity and inclusion, with a panel consisting of Kate Field, Global Head Health, Safety and Well-being at the British Standards Institution (BSI), Sally Swingewood, Lead Standards Development Manager, British Standards Institution (BSI), Hayley Farrell, Wellbeing Manager, EMCOR Group (UK) PLC and Peter Kelly, Senior Psychologist, Health and Safety Executive.

Click here to read the second article in this mini series, where we look at how the UK’s approach to stress and mental health compare to the approach across Europe.

Work-related stress podcast

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Peter Kelly, Senior Psychologist for the Health and Safety Executive about work-related stress…

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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