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Protecting employees’ mental health

Employees are the core of a company’s success. Neither its capital, its premises, its newest machinery, nor even its leadership would mean much without a great workforce to drive it forward. And that means a workforce with core stability and slower staff turnover. In sum, a place in which people feel happy to stay and grow. Therefore, retaining employees over the medium and long term by making sure they feel fulfilled in their role is key. And part of that is about ensuring a healthy working environment - not just physically, but from a mental health point of view.

In the UK in 2019/20, 828,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression, or anxiety, and 17.9 million working days were lost to it, making it the number one cause of lost working days.[1] Similarly, a study conducted in the US reports that 200 million workdays are lost each year to mental health conditions.[2] 

Work-related stress also affects employees’ performance. Studies show that higher stress scores result in significantly lower productivity scores.[3] APA reports that the performance of 59% of employees was negatively affected by work-related stress, causing them to be less interested in work, having less energy or motivation for it, finding it difficult to focus, and putting less effort into their work.[4] According to APA, there is also a strong correlation between people’s wish to change jobs and their stress levels. Among those who wanted to change jobs, 71% were ‘usually stressed’ during their workday.  

This year, 2022, marks the 20th anniversary of the inclusion of mental health in the French Labour Code. Although the initial objective was to combat ‘moral harassment’, the aims rapidly evolved into fighting stress, overwork and isolation, in other words: psychosocial risks.  These issues need to be addressed by businesses planning reorganisation and restructuring projects - and staff representatives, employees and the courts all take a keen interest…
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But what are the main stressors, and how can we prevent them? 

Research we looked at[5] shows that work stress is commonly caused by: 

  • Unrealistic demands, including excessive workload 
  • Lack of support 
  • Unfair treatment, including harassment and bullying 
  • Lack of participation in decision making 
  • Lack of appreciation 
  • Effort-reward imbalance, including low pay  
  • Conflicting roles 
  • Lack of transparency 
  • Poor communication 
  • Lack of opportunity for advancement or growth 
  • Long hours 
  • Problems with coworkers and supervisor  
  • Lack of paid time off or sick leave 
  • Commuting 
  • Health and safety factors 
  • Unpleasant workplace conditions and environment 


Many of these can be alleviated by good HR practices and so it seems clear that the way an employer manages its workforce plays an important role in managing people’s work-related stress.   

So, here are a few measures managers can take to prevent or minimise work-related stress faced by employees: 

Measures to minimise work-related stress


[1] HSE, Working days lost in Great Britain, https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/dayslost.htm

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/health-strategies/depression/evaluation-measures/index.html

[3] Bui, Tina et al. “Workplace Stress and Productivity: A Cross-Sectional Study.” Kansas journal of medicine vol. 14 42-45. 12.02.2021, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33654542/

[4] APA, The American workforce faces compounding pressure, 2021 https://www.apa.org/pubs/reports/work-well-being/compounding-pressure-2021

[5] Bhui, Kamaldeep et al. “Perceptions of work stress causes and effective interventions in employees working in public, private and non-governmental organisations: a qualitative study.” BJPsych bulletin vol. 40,6 (2016): 318-325, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5353523/; APA, The American workforce faces compounding pressure, 2021, https://www.apa.org/pubs/reports/work-well-being/compounding-pressure-2021

[6] APA, The American workforce faces compounding pressure, 2021, https://www.apa.org/pubs/reports/work-well-being/compounding-pressure-2021

[7] HSE, Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain, 2021, https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress.pdf

[8] Forbes, Sheryl Lyons, The Benefits Of Creating A Diverse Workforce, 09.09.2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/09/09/the-benefits-of-creating-a-diverse-workforce/?sh=3cfe65d0140b

[9] Gompers, Kovvali, Harvard Business Review, 2018, https://hbr.org/2018/07/the-other-diversity-dividend

Arnaud Teissier
Partner - France
Capstan Avocats
Sam Everatt
Executive Director - Belgium
Ius Laboris