Managing the wellbeing of your team is a priority for you as a manager. 

As a manager, you have a responsibility for the health and safety of your staff, including risks to their mental health. You're also in the best position to notice and help if someone you work with requires additional support.

General guidance on managing teams

This page focuses on tips for managers supporting their staff with wellbeing issues. If you're a manager looking for tips on how to support yourself during a time of stress, see our resources on coping with stress.

How do I know someone is struggling?

Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure, and can affect how you feel, think, or behave and how your body works. Stress can manifest itself at an individual level or team level. Common signs are marked changes in behaviour, increased sickness absence, poor timekeeping, or a drop in performance. 

If you have particular concerns about work-related stress in your team, advice is available from your HR Adviser. You may also wish to undertake a Staff Wellbeing Survey or a more formal risk assessment - further information about these is available on the Health and Safety web pages.

Discuss the issues with your employee

Work-related stress is usually related to the pressure of a heavy workload and is best dealt with at an early stage. If your team feel they can approach you with issues as they occur, it will increase the likelihood of swift and more straightforward resolution of any difficulties. It's a good idea to have an informal meeting away from your usual workplace to put the individual at ease, prevent interruptions and ensure privacy.

  • Encourage open, honest communication to establish what the individual is feeling stressed about and the possible causes
  • Ask open questions and give the individual the time and opportunity to explain
  • Allow adequate time to talk as it can be unhelpful to prematurely cut off a productive conversation
  • Avoid comparing their issues and circumstances to yourself or others
  • Stay focused on the member of staff and what they are experiencing

Once the extent and causes of stress have been established, be careful not to over-promise on what you can deliver - manage the individual's expectations to ensure that they are realistic about what can be done, and what timescales might apply.

Make your team member aware of the University's Employee Assistance Service.

If the stressors appear to be work related, it is important that action is taken. As a manager, you should consider the following questions:

  • Can the stressors be removed or reduced? (be realistic)
  • If not, what support can be given to the individual to help them cope?
  • What resources are needed/available to help?
  • Are there HR policies, such as flexible working, that can be used in this case?
  • What is the impact on others of any work adjustments?
  • What follow-up actions/checks are needed?
  • Have my management practices had an impact on the situation? Are there things I can do better in the future to support my staff?

Actions to respond to a report of work-related stress should be agreed with the individual and documented, wherever possible, in a wellbeing action plan so that progress can be reviewed regularly.

As a manager, you may consider putting temporary adjustments in place to help the individual cope in the short term, while other steps are taken to remove or reduce the causes of stress.

Adjustments might include:

  • relieving the individual of some work tasks
  • considering leave in special circumstances
  • reduced hours
  • flexible start/finish times
  • a temporary change of working environment, or
  • referral to other sources of help

If the stress is work related and short-term adjustments are unlikely to resolve the situation, you may need to consider longer-term alternatives. This may involve:

  • permanent redistribution of work tasks
  • introducing a different working pattern via the flexible working policy
  • work to improve team cohesion
  • mediation or 
  • access to personal development training, coaching or mentoring

Further advice on reasonable adjustments is available from your HR Adviser.

What else to consider? 

Once reasonable steps to minimise or remove the stressors have been agreed upon, they should be recorded, either informally or using a Wellbeing Action Plan. Actions should be reviewed regularly with the person until the situation is resolved or they are feeling better.

If the individual's symptoms of stress are getting worse and/or having an adverse impact upon their work and general wellbeing, they might find it useful to talk to their doctor.

If the member of staff is a member of a trade union, they can talk to their representative who might be able to attend meetings with them and support them in developing solutions to the stress.

referral to Occupational Health should always be considered, but may not always be necessary. Your HR Adviser may be able to help with this.

As a manager, you have access to an independent, confidential managerial advice line through our Employee Assistance scheme with Health Assured. It offers emotional and practical support in dealing with a wide range of management issues. Call Health Assured on 0800 028 0199.

Health Assured also provide a full range of helpsheets on topics such as effective communication, listening skills, delivering bad news, bullying, and conflict in the workplace. Simply login with username university and password york.