UCL Human Resources


Managing Stress at Work

This document aims to establish standards for managers and staff on the prevention of work related stress.

1. Introduction

University College London (UCL) recognises that its mission to be a world class centre of research and teaching is best achieved through the effective contribution of a motivated and committed workforce. The people who work at UCL contribute most effectively to its success and achieve job satisfaction, if they are healthy and happy at work.

UCL aims to promote a culture of trust and co-operation, where all members of the UCL community are treated with dignity and respect.

This document aims to establish standards for managers and staff on the prevention of work related stress. It also provides information on sources of support available at UCL to facilitate implementation of these standards and support for those experiencing feelings of stress.

1.2. Work Related Stress

The Health & Safety Executive defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction a person has to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed upon them’. This makes a distinction between ‘pressure’, which can be a positive state if managed correctly, and ‘stress’ which can be detrimental to health.

2. Prevention of Work-related stress

UCL recognises that it has a duty of care towards its staff and a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment.

2.1. Organisational arrangements

UCL aims to ensure, as far as is reasonably possible, that staff work in a safe environment with safe systems of work

  • by providing a workplace free from harassment and victimisation;
  • by developing sound management practice based on equality of treatment;
  • by providing a framework of employment, health, safety and security policies and systems to support managers and staff  in minimising the risk of work-related stress;
  • by effective workload allocation and feedback on performance;
  • by ensuring good communication throughout UCL;
  • by providing information and training to enable staff to develop their skills and maximise their contribution to the success of UCL;
  • by providing appropriate employee support services.

2.2. Manager’s responsibility

It is essential that managers have an active role in facilitating and supporting staff to do their job effectively and to contribute to the success of the department and UCL. In order to minimise the risk of work-related stress, managers must:

  • ensure good communication particularly where there are organisational and procedural changes;
  • ensure jobs are designed to avoid conflicting demands and that expectations and the job role are clear;
  • ensure  staff are fully trained to undertake the demands of their job and are able to contribute to decisions about how the job is done;
  • ensure there are regular opportunities for feedback on performance e.g. regular ‘one to one’ meetings and team meetings;
  • identify or respond to issues of concern promptly and seek constructive solutions;
  • make use of the support and training resources available;
  • ensure staff are provided with meaningful training and developmental opportunities;
  • ensure that bullying and harassment is not tolerated;
  • be aware of signs of problems and offer additional support to a member of staff who is experiencing stress outside work e.g. bereavement or separation;
  • comply with UCL employment policies and policies on health, safety and security;
  • seek appropriate advice and support at an early stage if difficulties arise.

2.3. Employee Responsibilities

It is essential that staff have an active role in contributing to their own development and the success of the department and UCL by using the resources available to carry out their role effectively. In order to minimise the risk of work-related stress, staff must:

  • ensure good communication with colleagues and their manager;
  • support colleagues by providing appropriate information and by sharing knowledge and resources where appropriate;
  • engage in discussion about their performance and act on feedback;
  • raise issues of concern at an early stage and seek constructive solutions;
  • make use of the support and training resources available;
  • ensure that bullying and harassment is not tolerated;
  • comply with UCL employment policies and policies on health, safety and security;
  • seek appropriate advice and support at an early stage if difficulties arise.

3. Risk Assessment and Risk Management

All staff may experience periods of pressure at work, and short periods of pressure are not necessarily of concern. It is the risk from sustained and / or excessive pressure, without the opportunity to recover, that needs to be assessed and measures put in place to control the risk of adverse effects.

The Health and Safety Executive has identified six key ‘Management Standards’ that represent a set of conditions that reflect high levels of health, well being and organisational performance. The ‘Management Standards’ provide a practical framework that organisations can use to minimise the impact of work-related stress. Details are provided in full in Appendix 1, along with UCL’s policies and procedures that support the achievement of each standard. In summary the standards are concerned with:

  • Role: Whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that the person does not have conflicting roles
  • Demands: e.g. workload, work patterns, and the work environment
  • Control: How much say a person has in the way they do their work
  • Support: The encouragement, support and resources provided by the organisation, line managers and colleagues
  • Relationships: Promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
  • Change: How organisational change is managed and communicated

A checklist in Appendix 2 has been developed, using the HSE standards, to provide UCL managers and staff with guidance on the practical steps they can take to identify potential sources of pressure and avoid or address the risk of stress at work.

Further information about the causes and signs of stress can be found in Appendix 3.

4. Sources of Support at UCL to assist in the implementation of this Policy

Further advice on UCL’s policies that support the management of stress at work is available from the HR Business Partnering team.

The Workplace Health Service can provide advice where there are concerns about the effects of work on health.

Safety Services provide advice on safe work environment and risk assessment.

Further advice on support for disabled staff can be sought from UCL’s Equal Opportunities Co-ordinator.
The Organisational Development (OD) offers opportunities for all staff to develop the skills required to do their jobs effectively and to develop new skills to meet changing demands.

The Organisational Development team also offers academic and professional services staff managers with opportunities to develop their management and leadership capabilities. These have a strong bearing on the effective prevention and management of work related stress.

The Employee Assistance Programme can provide emotional support and practical advice for both work and non-work related issues both before they become a problem and when a problem is identified.

If staff consider that they are suffering from bullying or harassment at work they should phone the confidential harassment help line on 0207 679 1221 through which they will be referred to a Harassment Adviser if appropriate, or they can visit the Harassment web page.

Trade Union representatives have a key role to play in the welfare of staff. They contribute to discussions and subsequent actions on matters concerning all aspects of staff welfare.

5. Implementation and Monitoring

The implementation of this policy will be monitored and a review of its effectiveness carried out annually, using information from the Employee Assistance Programme, Counselling and OH Reports and Safety audits. The Health and Safety Management Team will be responsible for monitoring and review of this policy.


Appendix 1 - The HSE ‘Management Standards’ and UCL’s organisational arrangements aimed at supporting the achievement of the standards

Appendix 2 - Manager’s Checklist

Appendix 3 - Information about Stress

Appendix 4 - Self-Assessment Stressor Questionnaire.docx

Reviewed and Approved by Angela Graneek
November 2010