Garden centre staff are skilled multi-taskers. Day-to-day they are busy managing customer ‘expectations’, dodging energy-bound tiny tots, assisting frail shoppers, keeping pace with changing stock in seasonal displays, helping with delivery loading or unloading and involved in time-intensive plant watering tasks. The dynamic garden centre environment is fast-paced. Consider this in relation to the current climate of increasing mental health awareness and the most recent workplace stress statistics, and there is a definite case to read on...
The latest HSE statistics reveal that 1.4 million working people are suffering from work-related ill health, and 26.8 million working days are lost due to work-related ill health. As you can see below the highest percentage of new and long-standing cases of ill health and working days lost by type of ill health is attributable to stress, depression or anxiety.
How does the law apply to stress?
All employers have a general duty to look after the welfare of employees under the ‘Health and Safety at Work Act 1974’ and to assess and manage risk to their staff under 'Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999’. This includes assessing and minimising the risk of stress-related illness.
Work-related stress is defined as:
“A harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands in the workplace.”
Are there any Signs of Stress in your Garden Centre?
Employee stress is not only detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the person experiencing it, but can seriously affect their performance at work and their relations with colleagues. The effects of stress can also become extremely dangerous when ongoing, leading to physical symptoms such as heart disease, or even causing long-term psychological damage.
Despite some signs of stress being more obvious than other illnesses, stress at work is not always treated, nor taken seriously. Consider noise-induced hearing loss, for example. This may develop very gradually over time and can therefore sometimes be almost unnoticeable, but despite this, it is treated as a serious health hazard and preventative measures are implemented.
Signs of stress, on the other hand, may include very noticeable, almost immediate changes in behavior but are often not treated at all. As an employer or garden centre manager, the following signs may indicate that staff are suffering from stress:
- Sudden changes in behavior.
- Irritability or frequent mood swings.
- Extreme indecisiveness.
- Unusually poor timekeeping.
- Lack of self-confidence.
How to tackle stress in your garden centre
Knowing what you can do as an employer to tackle work-related mental health issues can be tough. However, the HSE has produced ‘Management Standards for Work-Related Stress’ to help. This sets out 6 key areas to look at:
- Demand – What is staff workload like? What are their working patterns - shifts, early starts or late finishes? What is their work environment - lone working, risk of exposure to violence or aggression through money handling or direct public confrontation, or working in weather extremes? Review these areas and look for solutions that could be implemented. Monitor sickness absence to look for patterns and ensure full holiday entitlement is taken.
- Control – Have your employees got a say in how they do their job? Can you involve them or consult with them? Consulting on uniform or PPE purchase, to ensure a good fit, as a minimum.
- Support – Do staff feel comfortable speaking to management about any concerns? Management should be approachable with an ‘open door policy’ for staff to report concerns.
- Relationships – Does your workplace promote positive working with a clear anti-bullying or anti-harassment message?
- Role - Do employees have clearly defined job roles and responsibilities? Staff should be appointed in job roles suitable to their training and experience.
- Change – Changes in business ownership, management, staffing changes or redundancies can unsettle an otherwise content workforce. Correct management and communication of change is important to reassure staff.
In order to keep your staff healthy, in line with an employer’s duty of care, you should keep an eye out for signs of stress. When signs are spotted it is important to take steps to be supportive and put in place measures to help reduce these stress levels as soon as possible.
There is a plethora of information available online to help employers learn about stress and how it can be managed in the workplace. The Mental Health Foundation offers some excellent information including podcasts, videos and stories - find out more here: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health.