Occupational Stress Management

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Occupational Stress Management

1. The University of Strathclyde places high importance on the provision of a healthy and safe environment for its staff and to being recognised as a health promoting organisation. It is the established Health and Safety Policy of the University of Strathclyde to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all its staff in accordance with relevant statutory requirements. The University also accepts that it is under an obligation to assess the nature and scale of risks to health in its workplace and to base control measures upon that assessment.

2. At present there are no specific statutory requirements in relation to stress at work but the University accepts that its general duty of care covers both staff's mental and physical health while at work.

3. There are considerable pressures in everyday university life. Many of these pressures assist us raise levels of performance to the benefit of our colleagues, our students and the wider community. Improved levels of performance also contribute to our sense of personal satisfaction and self esteem.

4. Stress however occurs where there is a prolonged imbalance between pressure and an individual's ability to cope. Stress, as thus defined, is harmful to the individual's health. Some of this damage is temporary and reversible but severe stress can permanently damage the mind and the body and leave it more susceptible to cancer and heart disease.

5. In asserting its commitment to address the harmful effects of workplace stress, the University recognises stress at work exists within a context. Incidents of stress will be less prevalent in an organisation which promotes :

(a) good health amongst staff
(b) mutual respect between members of staff across all levels and disciplines
(c) the adoption of good management practices.

Stresses can also be present in the lives of staff outside of work but the University understands that they may combine with stresses at work to produce a greater threat to the individual's health.

6. In the context of stress, good management practices should address staff's expectation that they will be

  • treated fairly
  • kept safe from physical threat, bullying, harassment and any forms of discrimination which are illegal
  • properly informed about matters which affect them
  • located within an organisational framework which supports co-operation and reduces friction
  • challenged by their work but not overwhelmed by it


To further its policy of combating work-related stress, the University is committed to three levels of intervention and the following programme of action.

  • increase general awareness amongst staff of the causes and effects of stress
  • provide training to Heads of Department and other managers/supervisors on the particular contribution that they can make to the management of stress
  • provide staff with information and assistance on the self management of stress
  • provide a confidential referral service for use by staff
  • provide return to work support for staff when they return from stress-related illness
  • identify, collect and consider information to measure the problem and evaluate effectiveness of interventions


Action to reduce harmful stress in the workplace requires a partnership between the management of the University, the management of its constituent parts and individual members of staff.

University Level

Responding to concerns expressed to it by the University's Statutory Advisory Committee on Safety (SACS), the University Staff Committee has formed a Staff Well-being Group. This is a multi-disciplinary group comprising those with experience of heading Academic and Support departments, Human Resources, Health and Safety Management, Counselling and Occupational Health.

The Staff Well-being Group is responsible to the Staff Committee of the University Court for

(a) implementing the actions contained within the policy
(b) consulting with University Committees (such as SACS) and University staff on stress at work issues and responding to views
(c) evaluating the effectiveness of the policy and making recommendations for future action

The Centre for Academic Practice and Learning Enhancement, Human Resources and Safety Services are jointly responsible for training of Heads of Departments and individuals on stress management programmes

Human Resources is responsible for managing the provision of a confidential referral service for members of staff. The contract for the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) has been placed with an organisation called Optum and offers confidential independent help, information, and guidance which is accessed by telephone.  Further details are available online.

The University also retains the part-time services of a number of well qualified medical staff and confidential referrals can be arranged through Human Resources

Human Resources is responsible for the training and development of Advisers whose advice can be sought under the University's Harassment Policy.

Departmental Level

Heads of Department are responsible for ensuring good communication on stress issues within their department and for fostering a supportive environment in which stress issues can be identified, discussed and addressed. They should avail themselves of the opportunities available to become better informed about the subject and how it can be managed. They should encourage research group leaders, other types of supervisor and appraisers within their department to understand the issues involved and where assistance can be sought. Heads of Department are responsible for ensuring that signs of stress in individuals are identified and addressed and that return to work interviews are conducted with staff who return after stress-related illness.


Individual members of staff have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and that of others that might be affected by their actions. Staff are encouraged to discuss their stress-related issues with their Head of Department, Supervisor, Appraiser, Medical Practitioner (either their own or one retained by the University) or make use of the external Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). Individual staff are also encouraged to look out for signs of stress in colleagues and to support them in addressing the problem.

Approved by Court (20/06/2000)