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Why it pays for employers to understand mental health at work

  1. Did you know?
  2. 5 common signs of workplace stress
  3. Stress at work: an employer's checklist
  4. Minimising stress and maximising production
  5. The first steps to stress-free working


In an increasingly competitive 24/7 economy, companies are facing unprecedented pressure to perform. Longer hours and heavier workloads are having a significant impact on employee health. And poor management could be to blame.

study by CV Library shows that workplace stress is on the rise with over half of employees saying they were dealing with stress at work on a daily basis. Worse still, almost two thirds of the people questioned believed that they received little or no support from their managers. Stress and anxiety in the workplace are not just bad news for your workforce; they can also have a negative impact on performance, productivity, recruitment and your ability to retain staff.

So it makes sense to spot the signs, establish a healthy work/life balance and introduce measures that effectively manage work-related stress.


Did you know?

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5 common signs of workplace stress

Employees who are suffering from stress may exhibit unusual behaviours, or sudden mood changes. Knowing what to look for may help employers to tackle the problem at an early stage.

  1. An increase in unexplained absence or sick leave
  2. Poor performance or time-keeping
  3. Poor decision-making
  4. A lack of energy
  5. Uncommunicative or moody behaviour

Stress at work: an employer's checklist

Stress can hit employees at any level and in any role. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has identified six common causes of stress at work. These provide a clear check-list for employers.

  • Unreasonable demands - heavy workloads can place heavy demands on staff. It is also important to consider the working environment

  • A lack of control - employees may feel that they have little or no say over their schedules

  • A lack of support - staff may believe that that they are left to tackle problems without the support of line managers or other colleagues

  • Poor working relationships - a lack of trust, or the wrong culture, can cause stress and anxiety

  • Uncertain roles - unclear or ill-defined roles can lead to conflict and leave employees feeling confused

  • Unexpected change - sudden organisational changes can make employees feel isolated and uncertain

You can find out more about the common signs of stress in the workplace in our Stress advice page.

Minimising stress and maximising production

While mental health is complex, there are a number of things managers can do to help their employees cope with work-related stress. The Centre for Mental Health charity estimates that employers could cut the cost of mental health - in lost production and replacing staff - by a third - just by improving their management of mental health at work. 

The key is to focus on the factors that are within your control. The HSE has developed a suite of management standards, which help organisations to tackle the key causes of stress and anxiety at work. These offer guidance in the following areas:

  • Demands - ensuring employees can cope with the demands of their workload, work patterns and working environment
  • Control - allowing employees to have more of a say in the way they approach their work
  • Support - providing encouragement, sponsorship and resources to address employee issues and concerns
  • Relationships - promoting positive working to avoid conflict and responding quickly to unacceptable behaviour
  • Role - defining roles and responsibilities to remove ambiguity and responding to concerns
  • Change - liaising with employees to minimise the impact of organisational changes and upheaval

Mental Health top tips image It is important for employers to compare their current workplace culture with these standards and continually evolve their working practices to eliminate stressful situations.

These simple steps, alongside our top tips for employers pdf icon Mental health top tips [17kb], can help to influence employees' workplace wellbeing and performance. 


The first steps to stress-free working

Employers don't have to be qualified counsellors to make a difference to their staff's wellbeing. Encouraging employees to talk and being a good listener can provide the perfect opportunity for people to discuss problems at home, or other factors that may be affecting their performance at work. It is also important for employers to keep an open mind. There are many misconceptions about people with mental health. And the more line managers understand about mental health issues, the more they can do to help their staff cope with the challenges the modern workplace poses.

Find out more about mental health at work

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