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Acas launches new stress at work guidance

Wednesday 01 November 2017

Workplace experts, Acas, have launched new guidance to help managers support stressed out staff at work and make businesses more productive.

Acas helpline staff took more than 11,000 calls about stress at work last year and the new guidance will help organisations reduce stresses at work by advising on better job design and highlighting how managers can identify problems and deal with them sensitively.

Acas Senior Guidance Adviser, John Palmer, said:

"The UK economy lost more than 11 million working days last year due to stress related absence so everybody benefits if managers know how to properly support stressed out staff.

"This new Acas guidance helps employers identify the physical signs in staff and the typical causes of work-related stress.

"Our own recent research found emails, in particular, can leave staff feeling overwhelmed if not managed effectively so designing effective systems for prioritising emails can relieve a lot of work pressures in that area."

The guidance highlights five signs that managers should watch out for to help them spot stressed out staff.

  • Changes in the person's usual behaviour, mood or how they interact with colleagues.
  • Changes in the standard of their work or focus on tasks.
  • Appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn and reduced interest in tasks they previously enjoyed.
  • Changes in appetite and/or increase in smoking and drinking alcohol.
  • An increase in sickness absences and/or turning up late to work.

The Acas guidance also explains how employers should approach staff who seem stressed, including.

  • Have the initial conversation in a private space, where they will not be disturbed.
  • Be patient and allow them as much time as they need to talk about it.
  • Consider the causes of stress and how it relates to workplace relationships. It may be beneficial to involve Human Resources or a more senior manager and allow a work colleague or trade union representative to accompany them at any meetings.

The Acas workplace stress guidance is available at Dealing with stress in the workplace.

Notes to editors

  1. Acas stands for Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. Acas provides free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law. We support good relationships between employers and employees which underpin business success. We also provide good value, high quality training and tailored advice to employers. Our expertise is based on millions of contacts with employers and employees each year. Acas is an independent and impartial statutory body governed by a Council made up of members from business, trade unions, academia and the law.
  2. The Acas helpline dealt with 11,376 calls in 2016 specifically related to stress.
  3. According to the Labour Research Survey, there were more than 11 million working days lost due to stress in 2015/16 with over 480,000 people reporting that work-related stress was making them ill.
  4. For media enquiries please contact Steven Mather on 020 7210 3749 or For out of hours media enquiries please call the out of hours duty press officer on 020 7210 3600.