Tag Archive for: workplace

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April is stress awareness month and this year’s theme is ‘little by little’, which aims to highlight the impact of small positive actions on overall wellbeing. We consider the impact stress can have, how to be alert to it and what managers can do to support employees.

Stressful feelings typically happen when we feel we do not have the resources to manage the challenges we face. Feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope at work can have a significant impact on an employee’s performance, conduct and relationships with colleagues.

What causes stress?

 With regard to the workplace, employees can experience stress as a result of several factors such as:

  • Excessive demands from their role
  • Their workload feels unmanageable
  • They feel out of their depth with the task(s) they have been asked to perform
  • Disputes with a colleague or manager

It can also be the case that if your employee is suffering from stress because of one factor then they become more susceptible to being affected by other factors, and so the list of stressors expands quickly.

What are the impacts of chronic stress?

Stress in minor-to-moderate doses may be expected, as the body is equipped to handle these reactions and some people find a modest amount of stress to be quite helpful and motivating. However, the problem arises with ongoing stress – which can have serious consequences. Chronic stress impacts the entire body and can harm wellbeing in the long-term.

Ongoing stress is a risk factor for heart disease, dementia, stroke, accelerated aging, depression, anxiety, insulin resistance, prolonged digestive issues, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

From a mental health perspective and in the context of work, stress can now amount to a disability within the Equality Act 2010. Chronic stress may negatively impact an employee’s:

  • Outlook on life
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Performance in the workplace
  • Quality of self-care
  • Attendance levels and absences

Recent statistics issued by the Health and Safety Executive reveal that 1.8 million workers reported they were suffering from work-related ill health in 2022/23, with approximately half of the cases down to stress, depression or anxiety.

With this in mind, it is important employers and line managers are alert to those employees who might be suffering stress.

Spotting the signs in employees

These may not always be obvious or even caused by work, but the signs will be there. For example, is someone taking more time off, arriving for work later or being more twitchy or nervous? A change in behaviour can also be a sign of stress such as:

  • Mood swings
  • Being withdrawn
  • Loss of motivation, commitment and confidence
  • Increased emotional reactions – being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive

Sometimes employees may even start self-medicating with alcohol.

What should employers do?

The first step is to talk with your employee. Being sensitive and supportive is key – they may not wish to talk about the situation or may not have identified the stress for themselves. Make time for a meeting in the working day and discuss the matter in private. Once the employee begins to share what they are experiencing, you should be open minded about how they might be feeling. Ask open questions and really listen to what you are being told. Try to establish the cause of the stress with the employee and work together on identifying possible solutions.

Although this is highly dependent on the cause of the issue and the circumstances of the employee, possible solutions could include:

  • Making temporary changes to work duties
  • Allowing the employee to work flexibly for a period to enable them to deal with a domestic issue
  • Discuss making an occupational health referral
  • Signpost them to your Employee Assistance Programme if you operate one
  • Recommend external agencies for additional support, such as Mind or the Samaritans

Importantly, arrange to follow up with the employee to discuss how they are doing and what further support they might need.

There is no ‘one size fits all approach to helping an employee with stress. It is often not a simple or quick fix. If left unchecked, it can have numerous consequences, but with ongoing support, it may be possible for things to improve for the employee, which in turn may well assist to get their performance in their role back on track.

If you would like our support in managing a stress-related situation in your workplace or to develop relevant policies and guidance, please contact Simon Martin in our team on 07384 813 076.

Home | workplace

Tune in to our free virtual HR club webinar – Mediation

In this session of the Narrow Quay HR Club we will talk about mediation. We’ve now got two accredited mediators at Narrow Quay HR and they will discuss what mediation is and what it isn’t and what the parties can expect in the mediation process. We will cover the benefits to the parties and to the organisation of using mediation. We’ll look at when is the right time to think about mediation and how it can work in situations such as when a grievance has been raised. We will also discuss the relative merits of using an internal mediator in an informal mediation process and using the services of an external accredited mediator.

Date: Thursday 18 May 2023

Time: 9.00am – 10.00am

SpeakerSimon Martin & Sarah Carrington

Home | workplace

Tune in to our free virtual HR club webinar – Neurodiversity in the workplace

Date: Thursday 9 February 2023

Time: 9.00am – 10.00am

SpeakersHelen CouchmanCaitlin Anniss & Jonathan Harper

In this session Narrow Quay HR’s Helen Couchman will talk you through what neurodiversity is and provide best practice tips on how to effectively support neurodivergent workers and ensure that your workplace is an environment where such workers feel welcomed and well catered for. We are delighted to be welcoming Jonathan Harper from Bristol based charity Paraorchestra who will share his experiences of supporting neurodiverse people in the workplace.

If you would like to email your questions beforehand, please contact our Events team.​

Home | workplace

As we come together to celebrate Black History Month in October 2022 we should take time to consider the theme this year: ‘Time for Action: Not words’.

Black History Month celebrates the continued achievements and contributions of black people to the UK and around the world. The focus now is on the present and future by shining a spotlight on those using the platform to push for change.

The Black History Month website stated when launching the theme for 2022, ‘whilst we can acknowledge and learn from the past, we need to strive to protect the future through taking action by coming together around a shared common goal, to achieve a better world for everyone.’

What’s happening in your workplace?

There are lots of ideas and initiatives that employers can implement. Below we have collated a few ideas.

Volunteer with Black-Led Charities

Consider team volunteering for Black-led charities and non-profit organisations. This is a great way to help the Black community while also making a significant difference.

Reflect on Your Internal Diversity & Inclusion Efforts

Reflect on your own D&I efforts. Are you promoting diversity as an organisation? How are you fostering inclusivity in your workplace? Are there areas of your business that can be made more inclusive such as your recruitment process or your management staff? Speak to your employees and see if they’re willing to share how they think you could improve as an organisation.

Celebrate Black Literature

You can promote classic and contemporary Black authors and their remarkable works. You could perhaps select some books written by Black authors and host a company-wide book reading event.

  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • I Know Why The Caged Birds Sing by Maya Angelou (Autobiography)
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Bring In Speakers and Create a Space for People to Listen and Share

Many companies celebrate Black History Month by bringing in speakers to share stories and experiences around race and Black identity. Promoting diverse voices creates a space for inclusion, understanding, and empathy. Involve people and open up the conversation to anyone who wants to participate by sending out a company-wide email asking for speaker and topic suggestions.

This kind of programming can take on many formats, from panel discussions to round tables to workshops. Choose the topic beforehand, and let people know what to expect so they can feel prepared to share and ask questions.

Other Useful Resources

Check out the below blogs for some further ideas on how you can celebrate this month:

For any further support or guidance, please get in touch with Helen Couchman in our team on 07799 901 669.

Home | workplace

Tune in to our free virtual HR club webinar – Managing menopause in the workplace

Date: Wednesday 14 September 2022

Time: 9.00am – 10.00am

Type: Virtual Online Event

Cost: Free

In this informal session, Lead HR Consultant Caitlin Anniss from Narrow Quay HR and Jessica Scott-Dye, Employment lawyer from VWV, will talk through the issues that can arise in connection with managing employees who are going through the menopause in the workplace. The menopause and its impact on work is highly topical at the moment and has prompted employers to consider what they do within their workplace on this topic. 
We will use case studies to highlight the key legal and day to day issues involved and provide practical ways for HR professionals to deal with them.

The session will be conducted virtually but we will use polls and the chat function to make the session as interactive as possible.

Speaker:  Caitlin Anniss & Jessica Scott-Dye

We hope you are able to join us. If you have any queries, please contact the Events team.

Home | workplace

Are you confident that you know how your staff are feeling at work? Have you noticed tensions in the staffroom or at meetings, but no one suggests anything is amiss?

Perhaps you already do an employee engagement survey but don’t feel this is giving enough relevant details. Or perhaps you are aware that there is a particular team which is not functioning well and you can’t quite establish why that is.

There can be a variety of reasons why it can be hard to get to the heart of what is happening in situations such as this – finding time in a busy schedule, using the right tools to gather in that feedback. Sometimes there is a reluctance from staff to engage on sensitive issues or to speak about colleagues. If left unchecked these tensions may well develop into significant issues for you. Undertaking a traditional workplace investigation to look into these matters might not be the right tool, as the concerns may not focus on one individual, may come too late, may not be practicable, or might not really get to the bottom of the issue.

What Does a Culture Review Involve?

This is where a culture review can really help. It can take a number of forms – online surveys directed at the particular issue, focus groups or one-to-one interviews. Often a culture review will involve a mixture of these methods to really gain a detailed understanding of what is going on.

What Data Can a Culture Review Gather?

At Narrow Quay HR we have a lot of experience in running a variety of culture reviews – looking at general morale across the staff community, dysfunctional teams, character clashes and conflicts. We have also conducted reviews to check in on staff confidence and understanding of key policies such as safeguarding. We know that staff respond really well to a third-party undertaking this type of review – it reassures them of confidentiality (or, potentially, even anonymity), enables them to talk more freely than they would to colleagues and/or offer constructive feedback where they might not otherwise feel able to voice their thoughts, and demonstrates the school’s commitment to finding a resolution.

How Narrow Quay HR Can Aid Your Culture Review

We work with you to develop the right medium for gathering the feedback you need, and through our analysis will draw together the key themes with recommendations for action. We analyse the data we collate and provide you with a report setting out themes and findings, and our recommended next steps. We can meet with you to discuss our findings and any appropriate follow up. We can support you with actions that may flow from the review, which may be more formal investigations into particular incidents or mediation where you have unresolved conflicts.

Narrow Quay HR is a subsidiary of VWV and our team of HR consultants are a mix of former lawyers who now specialise in HR and highly experienced HR professionals, giving you solid legal grounding and practical expertise.

If you would like to talk to us about your individual HR needs, please contact Sue Meehan Boyes in our team on 07384 468797.

Home | workplace

Date: 11 May 2022

Time: 9.00am – 10.00am

Event Type: Webinar

Cost: Free

The session will cover:

In this session NQHR expert Simon Martin will take you through the steps you need to follow to conduct an investigation thoroughly, efficiently and sensitively.

During the session they will look at:

  • the role of an investigating officer
  • how to undertake a fair investigation
  • identifying and gathering relevant evidence
  • taking witness statements (including from reluctant witnesses)
  • dealing with tricky areas such as anonymity and parallel investigations
  • how to structure an investigation report

The session will be conducted virtually but we will use polls and the chat function to make the session as interactive as possible.


We hope you are able to join us. If you have any queries, please contact the Events team.

Home | workplace

On 12 March, the Business Disability Forum (BDF) published guidance to help employers improve access for disabled workers.

What Does the Guidance Say?

The first part of the guidance, Access for all – Creating inclusive global built environments, sets out what an inclusive built environment may look like and sets out the importance of creating an inclusive environment for both disabled staff and businesses. It also looks at who to involve in this process and some of the challenges that employers may face.

The second part of the report looks at practical issues to consider when designing a more inclusive and accessible built environment.

The built environment refers to the interior of a building and will include things like entrances, stairs and lifts, lighting, seating areas, offices, catering and bathrooms.

The report suggests that thought should be given to how the people using the building really ‘use’ the environment, and that this must include those with disabilities. This will involve thinking about how easy it is for people to use the desks, the entrances, the toilet facilities and how easy it would be to enter and leave the premises, including in an emergency. 

The report encourages employers to consider the whole range of possible disabilities, including not only physical disabilities but also mental health conditions and sensory conditions. Aiming for inclusion in this context focuses on the built environment being able for all people to access and use spaces without specific adjustments being needed on an individual basis.

Why Is This Important?

The report suggests that a focus on the accessibility of built environments of workplaces will help to:-

  • attract and retain staff
  • attract customers and clients
  • reduce costs of high absence rates and high staff turnover
  • enable an organisation to become more energy and time efficient

The report gives some useful pointers for those working in HR to consider when thinking about the built environment of their organisation. 

To discuss these issues further, or for specialist guidance on issues relating to disability in the workplace, please contact Caitlin Anniss in our team on 07909 683 938.

Home | workplace

Date: 24 March 2022

Time: 9.00am – 12.30pm

Event Type: In-person

Cost: £125.00 + VAT

The session will cover:

  • handling disciplinary issues fairly and conducting a formal disciplinary
  • identifying and managing grievances
  • how to conduct a workplace investigation – including the role of the investigator, gathering evidence and writing the report
  • how to manage performance

The session will be interactive and include case studies and practical exercises to get you thinking about:

  • subject access requests
  • the right to be accompanied
  • discrimination
  • keeping notes of conversations
  • other common management issues

What others say… 

“I want to say how much I am enjoying today. It has totally demystified things for me.”

“I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought every part was relevant to my role. Engaged all day long.”


This session is being held in our Bristol office and run by specialists from Narrow Quay HR.


Thursday 24 March 2022

9.00am – Registration and Refreshments
9.30am – Start
11.20am – Break
11.40am – Resume
12.30pm – Finish

The session is suitable for any managers who deal with HR issues as part of their role.


We hope you are able to join us. If you have any queries, please contact the Events team.

Home | workplace

Recent investigations into ‘gatherings’ at Downing Street are being undertaken by Sue Gray, who also investigated claims of a staff party at No. 10 on 18 December 2020, when London was subject to severe restrictions.

Her senior colleague, the Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case, stepped down from carrying out the investigations because it was possible that he had attended one of the parties himself. Sue Gray’s investigation now includes the ‘bring your own booze’ event on 20 May 2020 and a wine and cheese gathering five days earlier.

As workplace investigators, we are aware of the issues that can arise during a workplace investigation. We reflect on the key things to consider when conducting an investigation, and how to prepare for the process.

Expecting the Unexpected

In one of our recent workplace investigations, we were asked to find the source of a leak at a school about a member of staff being involved in a safeguarding incident. All was progressing smoothly until one member of staff named the school’s investigator as the source of the leak. The investigator had to step down, leaving us to run the investigation ourselves.

In an investigation you must be able to react to unexpected developments and make appropriate changes to ensure that the process remains fair.

New Matters Might Arise

Fresh matters commonly come to light during our investigations. It’s important for those who have commissioned the investigation to know this to establish whether they want any new matters to also be included, rather than just expanding the scope without consideration.

If the commissioning officer wants the investigation to be expanded to include new matters then an updated Terms of Reference will need to issued. If that happens then depending on the stage we have reached we may need to re-interview some people to whom we have already spoken. It’s another reminder that investigations often don’t proceed in a linear fashion.

How to Deal With Multiple Incidents

The other matter to consider is how the investigating officer should address multiple events. When we carry out investigations we know it is important to first consider each incident on its own merits, which means considering the evidence related to each event.

We then need to consider whether any findings and conclusions can then be drawn by considering the various events together. We ask questions such as:

  • Are there any repeated patterns of behaviour?
  • Are the incidents similar?
  • Are the explanations similar?

In a disciplinary investigation it may be that any single incident in isolation would not merit a recommendation that it should be dealt with at a disciplinary hearing, but cumulative incidents would merit being considered at a formal hearing. This is particularly the case if an employee has been spoken to informally about their behaviour after one incident and then does something similar on a later date. It’s often only when we take an overview that the interconnected nature of the events reveal themselves.

For more details about how we typically carry out workplace investigations you may find our FAQ document helpful. If you’re looking for support with an investigation, please contact Simon Martin in our team on 07384 813 076 for more information on how we can support you.