Whilst doing my usual morning scroll through LinkedIn I came across a post that had been published by one of our competitors (who will remain nameless), the ignorance of which annoyed me both as a HR Professional and as a Mental Health Nurse.

The post was talking about work related stress and how to manage these situations, simply the points to “solve” the problem were listed as:

1. keep in regular contact
2. make formal plans for a supported return to work
3. conduct a return to work discussion
4. offer a phased return as part of reasonable adjustments
5. check-in to see things are working

Problem solved right?

Far from it. . .

Work related stress is a consequence of series of events that have happened within the workspace, the solution is actually very simple. The advice given by the other company as one directional, it focused solely on the future, but the stress which has caused the absence is a result of past events, if you don’t look at the core issues they will keep happening, they will snowball and absence will be frequent. You can also guarantee that turnover rates will be high, employee engagement levels low, productivity low and client satisfaction poor.

So, now I’m going to tell you how to REALLY solve the problem.

The 5 steps you should be taking are:

1. Understand the reasons the employee feels stressed. Is it workload, bad management, a dispute with a colleague or client?

2. Investigate collaboratively the issue and focus on resolution – not blame. SPEAK to all sides, listen to what they have to say.It might sound basic but all too often companies neglect to actually talk to people, we’re all human after all.

3. Resolve. Seek to resolve the situation by any means necessary or appropriate, this can include mediation, disciplinary procedures, grievances, retraining or restructure. There is no one right way and it is all circumstantial, what’s important is RESOLUTION, not blame and not point scoring.

4. Return. Day one back at work, check in with the employee. Have a return to work and make sure they are comfortable and happy with the steps the company have taken. Document this conversation clearly in the event of future issues. If retraining is required make sure there is a mini induction period or training schedule in place to help them feel supported.

5. Maintain the steps you have put in place, evaluate your stress at work procedures, your engagement strategy, your inclusion policy and your soft skills training needs. Training on things such as conflict resolution skills and managing difficult conversations, often managers have the technical skills but not the soft ones.

At NewtonFirst we see the bigger picture when it comes to HR, we understand the importance of a HR strategy that proactively seeks to promote an engaged and happy workforce. With tailored training and support being delivered to your management team that will encourage them to continuously develop their management and interpersonal skills, your company will be in a position to flourish. How you address stress related absence sets a tone and an example not only to other employees, but in our technologically connected world, it also sends a message to clients and customers. These situations are often sensitive, but we can equip you with the RIGHT knowledge and the RIGHT experience.

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