Stress management guidance for line managers

As line managers and supervisors, you are responsible for the health and safety of your team and this includes ensuring that they are not affected by work related stressors. Your management style can have an impact on stress, so it is important that you are aware of good management practices and that you develop your management skills. It is also important that you recognise the signs of stress in your team and know what support to give team members who may be suffering from stress.

Preventing and reducing stress

The HSE stress management competency indicator tool can help assess your effectiveness at preventing and reducing stress in your staff and identify your developmental needs.

Check the Management Development programme for relevant training opportunities.

Risk factors for stress

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) management standards identifies the following risk factors for work-related stress:

  • support: non-supportive culture from managers and colleagues, inability to access support 
  • role: ambiguity or conflict in roles, poor definition of objectives/tasks
  • control: lack of control over pace or time of work, little participation in decision-making
  • relationship: conflict, bullying or harassment, poor communication or problem-solving
  • demand: tight deadlines, work overload/under-load, conflicting demands at work and home
  • change: poor information about proposed changes, inadequate training to support changes

Find out more about the HSE Management Standards and implementing them.

Principles of good management


  • Have clear regular two-way communication with your staff. Are there formal meetings? Is there the opportunity for informal discussions?
  • Recognise and praise individual or group achievements, hard work and efforts
  • Give supportive and constructive criticism when required
  • Provide opportunities for staff to discuss their concerns.  Listen sympathetically to their concerns and take action about these concerns as appropriate
  • Communicate and discuss team objectives, mission and values
  • Involve staff in proposed changes in staff, work tasks and responsibilities
  • Think through the impact your actions and decisions have on the staff for whom you have responsibility
  • Give time to individual members of staff

Work design

  • Have clear roles and responsibilities for your staff which they understand and work to
  • Regularly review known work pressures such as excessive workload, tight deadlines, staffing levels, and need for staff skills development
  • Identify jobs where stress has been or is a problem and see what can be done to reduce the risk of stress to the job holders
  • Ensure that instructions and requests to staff are clear and are not conflicting
  • Allow flexible work schedules when this is practicable
  • Where possible, ensure staff have some control over their work tasks and that their work has variety

Health, safety and welfare

  • Take health and safety seriously
  • Where there are relationship problems, tackle these early, identify issues and agree the steps to try and resolve the matter
  • Visit your staff in the workplace
  • Know how long your staff work
  • Encourage staff to take their full entitlement of holidays each year
  • Provide as good a work environment as possible with the appropriate equipment to do the work efficiently
  • Make sure you follow up on concerns that employees report to you and feed them back on steps taken to address the concerns

Actions to support staff who feel stressed

  • Treat stressed employees in the same way as those with a physical health problem
  • Discuss the issue with individuals and demonstrate that you are concerned about their health
  • Consider formal stress risk assessment when making significant changes or if there are signs that employees may be experiencing work-related stress
  • If work is affected, discuss the problem with your Human Resources adviser or refer the individual to Occupational Health
  • Ask if there is anything you can do to help
  • Consider any simple adjustments to work, taking account of the risk factors given above
  • Advise the individual about sources of help within or outside the University (see "Further Information" in the right-hand box).
  • Actively follow up an individual with stress problems and continue to demonstrate your wish to support them
  • Monitor sickness absence. If an employee has frequent short absences or is absent with a stress-related illness, contact Occupational Health early for advice
  • Review and if necessary modify the work tasks and responsibilities of individuals who have had sickness absence due to stress or depression, and continue to monitor their progress

Stress risk assessment

Completing a stress risk assessment involves looking at current practice in relation to the HSE Management Standards and determining whether enough has been done to manage the risk or whether more needs to be done. It can be done with an individual or team and can be formal process using a risk assessment form (such as the one below), or an informal discussion using the standards as a guide. If you do an informal assessment, you should still make a record of the outcomes.

To support you with completing the Stress Risk Assessment, you can ask the individual or team to complete the following:

  • Perceived Stress Assessment tool – This is designed to measure individual stress levels by looking at how different situations affect feelings and thinking.
  • Stressor Assessment Tool – This questionnaire helps to identify the areas under the HSE Management Standards where support may be required

Occupational Health Advisors may recommend stress risk assessment for individuals who have been suffering stress. It is also a useful to carry out assessments for teams where there are stress related issues or are undergoing significant change.

If you need help with carrying out stress risk assessment, contact your Department's link Human Resources Manager/Officer.

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Contact us
Occupational Health team
Telephone: 01206 872399