The Stress Elephant with Sarah Crouch

The Stress Elephant with Sarah Crouch

Posted  27th November 2020

With the second lockdown in full effect, many schools are facing increasing challenges. Judicium is on hand to support you and to give practical advice during this uncertain period. The sofa sessions are designed to foster collaboration and networking. An informal setting where senior leaders from various education settings can connect, share practical strategies - and their questions can be answered.

This blog is based on Judicium’s Health and Safety ‘Sofa Session’ from the 18th of November, with our Resident expert Sarah Crouch CMIOSH.


We have never seen Health & Safety and HR cross over as much as we have this year, especially when it comes to mental health. Historically, it is a subject that has not been talked about enough. Many see mental health as an HR reactive scenario. It is important that our focus shift to a more proactive approach. Health & Safety is was put in place, with a main aim of preventing harm. It is often forgotten in the prevention of stress.


Proactive Initiatives

According to the health and safety at work act (1974), you have to look after your staff’s welfare as well as their health and safety. Therefore stress management training and stress risk assessments are indeed a legal requirement. Judicium are here to help you with install proactive and preventative measures, to reducing stress and improving wellbeing in the workplace. 

Below are some initiatives to consider:

  • Stress policy is a fantastic tool to set your foundation. This allows you to know who is responsible for what, allocate roles and organise training. Your stress policy gives you a framework of how to do this. It aids and determines at what point a stress related concern becomes a HR discussion.
  • Employee assistance programs. Having a neutral resource, be it for guidance or counselling etc, is a really good tool to provide your staff with another possibility to seek help. Sometimes its hard to talk, for many reaching out to their line manager may feel daunting, so a safe confidential space can be an excellent tool.
  • Stress management training. Judicium Health and Safety team have dedicated live training courses, as well as accessible eLearning modules in stress management. Training needs to be a tiered process, anyone with senior responsibilities that may have to manage work related stress are often the ones that actually don’t get the training. HSE use the slogan: ‘Put your own mask on first’. Whoever you train to look after and assist other people, make sure they are supported as well because it can be a heavy-duty extra responsibility. If you would like further information on our training courses, please do get in touch.
  • Occupational Health. Having a strong OH provider, can make all the difference when managing stress. By utilising OH expertise when someone expresses a concern, can aid the school in putting in place reasonable adjustments both long and short term for the member of staff, reducing the risk of absence and engaging the staff member to feel supported by the school.
  • Workplace practices. For example; encouraging your staff that they are not expected to reply to work emails outside of their work hours. Reinforcing this by making everyone have an email signature that says ‘I will respond between the hours of …. Remembering lunch breaks and making sure that they are in existence. Especially now with the COVID-19 secure arrangements. It is important to make sure that there is a space that people can go for lunch in order to get a change of scenery. Think about how breaks are kept alive, they are worth their weight in gold.


Presenteeism

Managing Presenteeism is something that as a sector we have struggled with for a long time. Presenteeism is the practice of coming to work despite illness, injury, anxiety, etc. This is a classic cross over with HR. Therefore it is important that you have your stress at work policy and your wellbeing policy in place and you are able to show how you manage this in terms of H&S.

We are aware that it can be daunting to embark on the journey of implementing stress management. There is a common fear of it opening up the flood gates for complaints. However, our experience is that the majority of feedback is useful and that the staff really appreciates this opportunity to voice their opinion.


Stress Risk Assessments

Personal stress risk assessments are a good example of a combination between formal and informal processes. When you are approached by a member of staff (informal process), they are often asking for assistance and that triggers the personal stress risk assessment (the formal process). It is important to keep updating the personal stress risk assessment regularly until the staff member is managing stress more effectively. The risk assessment process kicks in when there is a stress concern of any kind surrounding an employee.


Conversation

One of the most important proactive things you can do is showing your staff that you are available for conversation. This will allow your staff to approach you in a format that they feel comfortable with whether that is email, phone or zoom. We also recommend making employee assistance programs more available, this is neutral resource and might be easier for your staff approach.

Mental Health First Aid uses the acronym 'ALGEE', which participants use as a tool for providing mental health first aid: 

  • Assess risk
  • Listen non-judgmentally
  • Give reassurance and information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies

Asking for external help is very important and together with proper delegation they are fundamental in good H&S practices. It may feel very lonely at the top but it does not have to be. Reach out to your service provider and utilise them, that is what they are there for. (It’s certainly something we support our clients with every day).

Here at Judicium, we are seeing a rise in stress related staff absences, especially now that the second lockdown is in full effect. It is important to review policies, provide refresher training for your staff, look at what support is available and what can be done to prevent stress.

If you require any support in any of these steps, or would like to talk to someone surrounding some support for your school please do not hesitate to call us on 0845 459 2130 or email tara.jones@judicium.com.