Stress case study – Metropolitan council

The situation

A council introduced a revised stress management policy to provide managers with support, advice and tools to effectively manage work-related stress. They based the policy on HSE's Management Standards (MS) approach.

Assessing the risks

A Corporate Stress Steering Group was established to implement the MS approach across the council.  This was chaired by a director to demonstrate senior management commitment.  The group was made up of representatives from HR, trade unions, Organisational Development, Health and Wellbeing, Corporate Safety and directorate representatives.  Everybody worked together to develop a series of practical solutions to tackle work-related stress.

The HSE Indicator Tool was used as part of the data-gathering process, together with the council's own employee survey. 

Results were fed back. Individual teams and focus groups met to discuss the findings.  Hot spots were identified and a number of organisational and directorate actions were taken. 

Developing solutions

Organisational changes were made:

  • A corporate survey action plan based on staff feedback was implemented. It also covered bullying and harassment
  • A stress management at work intranet page was introduced, with advice on coping and dealing with stress at work, including details of available support across the organisation
  • Staff were continually updated through articles in the council staff magazine, giving helpful tips and hints for both managers and employees
  • Two training courses were reintroduced for managers and employees to raise awareness of dealing with and managing stress in a better way. Two e-learning modules for all staff and managers were developed
  • The council continues to brief their managers to support their understanding of the managing attendance policy and, in particular, how to deal with stress-related absence

Directorate changes were also made - the Leisure and Culture Service put the following actions in place:

  • an open-door policy to encourage staff to discuss any issues
  • a work shadowing programme to enable staff to increase their knowledge of each other's roles and responsibilities
  • weekly staff training sessions on teamwork and relationship building to promote mutual respect between employees
  • staff rotas and working patterns are now regularly reviewed to accommodate employees' circumstances, to address work-life balance issues


  • The number of stress-related sickness days lost has reduced by about a third (over 13 000 days) in the first year following intervention
  • More managers and staff take advantage of training and development opportunities. This has given employees the opportunity to gain new skills and raise their awareness of stress management

Tips for others

  • It is vitally important that everybody works together - management, trade unions, HR etc.
  • Senior management commitment is essential.
  • To ensure a better response rate to the questionnaires and so provide a more robust evidence base:
  • stress-related questions were incorporated in the employee survey
  • in addition to the electronic questionnaire, paper copies of the survey were also provided and promoted by senior and lower-level management
  • individual directorates also conducted their own stress surveys

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Updated 2021-05-11