University of Reading cookie policy

We use cookies on to improve your experience, monitor site performance and tailor content to you

Read our cookie policy to find out how to manage your cookie settings

Stress is a major cause of sickness absence in the workplace and costs over £5 billion a year in the UK. It affects individuals, their families and colleagues by impacting on their health but it also impacts on employers with costs relating to sickness absence, replacement staff, lost production and increased accidents.

In SMPCS we are committed to protecting the health, safety and welfare of our employees. We recognise that workplace stress is a health and safety issue and acknowledge the importance of identifying and reducing workplace stress.

The School is committed to promoting a good, supportive climate and healthy working culture, where stress is not seen as a personal weakness, and where employees experiencing stress or mental health problems can access appropriate support.

What is stress?

The Health and Safety Executive define stress as "the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them". This makes an important distinction between pressure, which can be a positive state if managed correctly, and stress which can be detrimental to health.

The School acknowledges that stress experience is unique and personal to each individual. What is relaxing to one person may be stressful to another. There are so many causes of stress but not all will be work related. For example:

  • Difficult relationships at work and/or home
  • Financial problems
  • Job security
  • Workload

Our ability to deal with stressors varies according to how we are feeling and any other stressors we have at the time. A small amount of stress is often experienced as a challenge, but when stress becomes overwhelming we start to feel unwell and unable to cope.

We acknowledge that there is a need to proactively assess the risk in the work environment to ensure measures are put in place to keep stress to a minimum for all staff, but also a need for individual assessment for staff who are exhibiting signs of stress. This dual approach includes:

  • The proactive risk assessment for stress within the School to include work areas, environment and teams - School stress risk assessment checklist; and
  • The individual stress risk assessment for stress in an individual - individual stress risk assessment checklist

Causes of stress

The Health & Safety Executive identifies the following six key potential stressors at work, that if properly and proactively managed, can help to reduce work-related stress:

Demand: this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment

Control: such as how much say the person has in the way they do their work

Support: this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues

Relationships: this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour

Role: such as whether people understand their role within the organisation, and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles

Change: such as how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated by the organisation