Step 2: Who can be harmed and how

You should assess any gap between your organisation's current performance and that described in HSE's Management Standards. You can do this by gathering and analysing data on the organisation's performance to compare against the Management Standards. You do not have to do extensive  analysis of the data.

Most organisations will already have some useful data that can identify the extent to which work-related stress is a problem in the organisation. Typically, most organisations collect data about sickness absence (self-certifications, fit notes etc), staff turnover etc. There will also be information, such as feedback from disciplinary action, staff or union complaints, information from exit interviews, comments made in team meetings or at performance discussions, which may add context.

It is a good idea to use more than one data source and look for correlations between the messages they give. For example, if a single team has a few disciplinary issues, it may indicate:

If the same team also has a high staff turnover and sickness absence rate, this may demonstrate a stress problem.

Analysis of data should be combined with organisational knowledge/intelligence to try to identify the underlying causes. For example, does the trend in sickness absence coincide with periods of high work demand? Are more people leaving from one specific department?

Existing sources of information in your organisation

Your organisation may already collect information you can use to give an initial broad indication of whether work-related stress is likely to be a problem. You could use this information to identify 'hot spots' where work-related stress is a particular problem and suggest what the likely underlying causes may be. Possible sources include the following.

Sickness absence data

High levels of sickness absence may indicate a potential problem. Investigate the reason for the absences, but be aware stress-related absence is not always reported as such, because people are reluctant to admit to it, particularly where there is potential for job losses. Also compare the timing of the absence – is it when there are high workloads or just after such periods?

Productivity data

Lower than expected performance (when compared with previous years or between different parts of the organisation) may indicate a problem. Working methods, lack of training, older/unreliable equipment or other conditions could be causing work-related stress and affecting performance.

Staff turnover

A higher rate of staff turnover than you would expect in your organisation, or parts of it, may indicate a problem. Do your 'exit interviews' suggest common reasons why people have decided to leave, and if work-related stress was a factor?

Disciplinary or complaint data

Research has shown that managers can be a major source of stress in a team. If a manager is treating people unfairly or is unable to control workloads coming to their area, it can lead to disputes within the team that could result in disciplinary action around bullying and harassment. It can also result in poor customer service that leads to more complaints.


Stress can affect people's ability to properly concentrate and symptoms of stress include difficulty in sleeping which can result in tiredness, because of this there may be a rise in the number of accidents and near misses.

Occupational health or employee assistance programme data

For organisations with occupational health provision for employees or employee assistance programmes it should be possible to get statistics on the number of people with work-related stress issues, or who are diagnosed with such issues or associated conditions.

Feedback from staff

You can find out if problems exist by talking to your staff. In smaller organisations this may be as easy as having a chat but in larger organisations there will often be pre-existing meetings set aside for discussing individual or team performance – use these meetings, maybe add an agenda item on 'stress' or 'workloads'.


The Management Standards approach suggests using a survey as one (but not the only) source of information on whether work-related stress appears to be a potential problem for your workforce and, if so, who is likely to be affected and how. A survey is not an essential step and for smaller organisations it would not be proportionate to run such a survey, particularly where the same data can be gathered in other ways.

The HSE Management Standards Indicator Tool

The HSE Management Standards approach includes a survey tool, called the HSE Management Standards Indicator Tool that can be distributed to employees. The survey consists of 35 questions about 'working conditions' known to be potential causes of work- related stress, which correspond to the six Management Standards. The employee answers according to how they feel about their work - gathering the opinions of individual employees can be a useful indicator of the health of your organisation, and potential sources of work-related stress.

Remember, even senior managers are employees and can be affected by stress, so include them in the survey. Survey all of your staff in all areas, don't make any assumptions about who may be under pressure.

For larger organisations, you may want to include additional 'demographic' questions to allow the results to be interrogated. For example an NHS trust may want to see results from individual hospitals or the relative level of work-related stress in doctors or nursing staff, by asking questions about where people work and their job title, this can be achieved.

All responses can then be compiled into the Excel-based HSE Management Standards Analysis Tool. The tool produces an analysis of the scores given in responses, giving an average figure for each of the six Management Standards between 1 (poor performance) and 5 (achieving the standard).

You can also use the Management Standards survey tools as part of a customised 'pick and mix' approach. The ways you can do this are described in the HSE Management Standards Indicator Tool manual.

If you plan to use your own surveys

You may like to use your own survey tool such as an existing annual employee survey or survey of working conditions to investigate whether work-related stress is likely to be a problem for your workforce, who is likely to be harmed and how.

If you do plan to do this, you need to:

Whether you use your own survey approach or the HSE Management Standards approach, the next step, communicating the results, is equally important.

Communicating your findings

Once you have conducted and analysed your survey, you should communicate the findings to the board, and the steering group. You should compare the findings with the other data you have been considering to see whether it is giving similar results or adding issues to consider.

You also need to communicate the findings to the workforce and their representatives.

A survey is only the start of the risk assessment process and a broad indicator of the situation in an organisation. It is intended to provide a starting point rather than giving a clear diagnosis of all the likely sources of work-related stress.

If there are areas for action, these can form the basis of discussions with focus groups and a useful guide for future actions.

You should not use surveys in isolation, but with other sources of information, to give you a more informed picture. Be sure to keep managers, staff representatives, trade unions and employees fully consulted and informed throughout the survey process so that the figures do not come as a shock.

Other ways of obtaining information about groups

Toolbox talks

Focus groups

Other initiatives

You may already have other initiatives for gathering information on who may be harmed and how, for example a health and safety committee. In this case, you may find it useful to integrate some parts of the Management Standards approach into those initiatives

Step 3: Evaluate the risks will take you through the next stage of the approach.

Updated 2022-05-17