Work-related stress

The HSE Management Standards and our Work Positive toolkit can help you address work-related stress, which can lead to poor mental health.

While it is good for us to experience some challenges and pressures in life, excessive or long-term pressure can lead to stress. If this continues, it can lead to a number of physical, emotional or psychological issues. The COVID-19 pandemic has also made people more vulnerable to work-related stress.

"My mental health has nothing to do with the pandemic but I struggle with tasks that I used to do without problems. I now can’t handle confrontation or stress related work problems like having no travelling time between service user but don’t think my employer has any clue what these things do to make my mental health worse."
- 2021 survey respondent

As an employer, you need to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for stress in your organisation. You are also expected to address any problems identified. There are various resources that can help you with this. 

Management standards 

Management standards for the workplace have been developed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). They cover six key areas of work design that, if not properly managed, can lead to stress and/or poor mental health amongst your staff. 

The six areas are:

  • Demands – such as workload, work patterns and the working environment
  • Control – how much say people have in how they do their work 
  • Support – the formal and informal encouragement, and resources provided 
  • Relationships – promoting positive working relationships to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
  • Role – whether people understand their role within your organisation, and whether there are conflicting roles
  • Change – how organisational change is managed and communicated

You can find out more about the Management Standards on the HSE website (external site).

Talking toolkit

The HSE has also developed a 'Stress talking toolkit' (external site) to help managers talk to workers about work-related stress.

Work Positive toolkit 

Our Work Positive resource is aligned closely with the HSE Management Standards and includes a free online surveys tool. This can be used to help you fulfil the requirements of stress risk management in your organisation. All results are anonymous and meet the requirements of data protection law. 

You can use the tool to: 

  • send an online questionnaire to all or some of your employees 
  • view the results online 
  • compare your results against organisations of similar size or sector 
  • consult directly with your employees about the results 
  • create a plan of action that you can then monitor and review 
  • support stress risk assessments for individuals with specific needs 

Access the surveys tool 

Before you can login to the surveys tool, you will need to create an account if you haven't done so already. 

Once your website account is set up, go to the contact form and type "Surveys tool access" into the message field. Someone will then arrange your access to the tool. 

Work-related stress 

The free online course 'Stress in the Workplace' can help you understand more about stress, and work-related stress in particular. 

You can access this course on the Public Health Scotland Learning Zone​ (external site).

You will need to sign up for a free account. 

The ACAS Stress at Work toolkit (external site) provides support and guidance for employers, to help recognise signs of workplace stress and support employees with their mental wellbeing.​

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