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Mental Health and Wellness - Stress Audit

Workplace stress is ubiquitous. In many ways it’s an unavoidable fact of life. In every organization there are big projects that need to be done and employees’ capabilities will be tested in achieving them. A small amount of stress can be helpful in providing motivation but in large quantities it can be detrimental to mental health and productivity. But to even begin responding organizations must first determine whether their workforce’s stress levels have reached problematic points. One effective way to do this is with the Stress Audit.

Goal


To effectively audit the company and determine organizational stress levels.

What is Stress Audit?
A stress audit is an organizational survey that examines levels of stress in the workforce. The results obtained from this survey can be divided up based on various subcategories in order to decide on key areas that need focus. The survey, however, does not actually implement company changes on its own. It’s critical that modifications to workplace procedures and processes are made in light of data gathered from the stress audit. The stress audit itself can take many forms, from a wide-ranging online or print survey to more qualitative one-on-one interviews, though this will naturally be limited in overall breadth due to the increased time requirements. A stress audit is a big project that requires careful research and preparation to enact effectively.

How does a Stress Audit improve employee engagement and culture?
Stress is a major factor in employee productivity and engagement at work. Employees who are stressed can miss days at work and otherwise be impaired in their ability to complete their job and associated tasks. Oftentimes there is no avenue for concerns about stress to be raised and the breakneck pace of today’s work environment dictates that staff either complete their work or be outpaced by others. Organizationally, employees will appreciate that efforts are being made to ameliorate their stress and thus will feel that the company is invested in their wellbeing. This sense of shared responsibility encourages greater employee engagement, both with the stress audit and in their daily lives.

What are the benefits?
Identification of key areas of stress
Generation of a store of information that can be used to assess potential company changes
Provides employees with a platform to air their concerns while giving them a stake in the process

How do you conduct a Stress Audit in the workplace?
A stress audit can be conducted in many different ways. Whether it’s a company-wide survey or a series of more closely examined interviews, a critical aspect of all the different methods is careful preparation. By deciding on areas of focus ahead of time, the survey can remain directed at relevant concerns for the organization. As a tool it is able to help employers identify if they have a stress problem but requires that they analyze the results to make appropriate conclusions. After analysis changes can be recommended and implemented as needed.

Action


Conduct a Stress Audit

Decide on methodology. First, come to a decision on how the stress audit will be conducted. A group of questions has to be generated that effectively cover all aspects of organizational stress. This set of questions can be created completely internally but it is easier and more reliable to use existing metrics. Existing methods include a variety of tools like the Occupational Stress Indicator, The Pressure Management Indicator and the HSE indicator, the last of which is available for free online. These programs can be adapted to your organization with questions switched out or added as needed.

Determine the breadth of the audit. Next, decide on who will be audited and how will they be surveyed. This could be a company-wide survey or a set of in-person interviews targeting people from a varied set of teams. Now is also the time to consider whether the audit will be optional or mandatory. Depending on organization size a pilot survey of a smaller subsection of your workforce may be prudent.

Promote the survey. Invite the people that you have decided to include in the audit.

Conduct the survey. If you’re going with written responses it may be best to use online platforms like Google Forms which allow you to easily track the data and number of answers within each category. If the audit is being conducted in-person, make sure to record interviews so that they can be transcribed for later analysis.

Analyze the results. How analysis will be done is dependent on the questions you decided to use. Most of the pre-existing methodologies have divisions by sections so that scores can be determined for each category, allowing for identification of problem areas. If the HSE indicator was used, an HSE analysis tool is also available for free online. This tool takes raw data and outputs results and categories of stress.

Implement change. Depending on what methodology was used and which areas were problematic changes can be recommended. For instance, if a lack of control is found to be a cause of stress, measures can be undertaken to increase employee autonomy. The findings might indicate that a broad stress policy should be formed or that other targeted wellness initiatives may be helpful.

Repeat the process periodically to measure progress and identify new problem areas.

Reference Material
Stress Audits: What You Need to Know
Stress at Work - Tools & Templates
Carrying out stress audits for staff wellbeing

Updated on: 12/24/2020

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