Doncaster Metropolitan Borough is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country, covering 224 square miles and the Council serves a population of approximately 290,000. It is led by one of only 12 Elected Mayors in the country and consists of 6 directorates.
In September 2007 the Council introduced a revised Stress Management policy to provide managers with support, advice and tools to effectively manage work-related stress. We based this revision on the HSE Management Standards for work related stress and it complemented our existing Managing Attendance Policy.
We established a Corporate Stress Steering Group in November 2007 to implement the Management Standards across the Council, develop an action plan and put together a series of practical solutions to tackle work related stress. Chaired by a Director to ensure senior management buy in, the group’s membership comprised of representatives from Human Resources, Organisational Development, Health & Well Being, Corporate Safety, directorate representatives and Trade Unions.
We used the HSE Indicator Tool as part of the data gathering process. In April 2008, we distributed 3,500 questionnaires at random to a sample of staff throughout the council including schools staff. The Council’s Employee Survey complemented this and helped to identify further stress related issues.
Each directorate received its results from both surveys to discuss with staff, before putting actions in place. Some directorates opted to feedback to managers and present findings to their staff.
We also organised a number of focus groups, using the results from the Employee Survey as discussion points.
Finally, a few smaller teams across the council held their own meetings to concentrate findings at a lower level.
Following findings from both surveys and discussions, we put a number of directorate corporate actions in place:
We originally found it difficult to ensure enough responses to the stress survey. We received 869 completed surveys, resulting in an overall response rate of 24.83%. The number of surveys returned represented approximately 5% of the workforce at that time. To ensure a better response rate and more robust evidence base, we included stress-related questions in our Employee Survey and made it available on-line. We also provided paper copies and promoted the survey more through senior and lower level management. Individual directorates also conducted their own stress surveys.
We faced further challenges trying to implement the action plans across the organisation. We asked directorates to add service specific stress management actions to the corporate plan, but they did not always fully engage with this. On reflection, we decided to re-launch the Corporate Stress Action Plan as a good practice guide representing best management practice. Directorates then addressed the most important issues.
It was sometimes difficult to get full directorate representation on the Corporate Stress Steering Group. This meant we were unable to implement fully the Management Standards throughout the organisation. The Corporate Leadership Team decided that we needed a change of approach to improve responsibility across the organisation.
In November 2009, we disbanded the Corporate Stress Steering Group, putting the Corporate Leadership Team in charge to drive forward the stress agenda. We put the following actions in place: