According to a survey conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in 2019/20, work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill health cases and 55% of all working days lost due to work-related ill health in the UK.
This means that mental health conditions are the leading cause of work-related ill health in the country, and underscores the importance of addressing workplace stress to protect the mental health and well-being of workers in the UK.
Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual event that aims to raise awareness about mental health issues, fight discrimination against people with mental illness, and promote mental health education.
While mental health is still a taboo topic in many communities, Mental Health Awareness Week offers an opportunity to open up conversations, break down barriers, and promote a better understanding of mental health issues. This year's theme is centred around anxiety, and there are many ways to get involved and show support, both locally and nationally.
One area of mental health that is often overlooked in the workplace is stress management. While many employers are now offering initiatives to promote employee wellbeing, there is still more work to be done when it comes to managing stress and preventing burnout. In this article, we discuss practical solutions for reducing stress in the workplace and how managers can support their employees in maintaining good mental health.
What Causes Stress in the Workplace?
Stress at work can be caused by a variety of factors, including long hours, tight deadlines, unclear expectations, inadequate resources, excessive workloads, and relationship difficulties.
It can also be caused by external factors such as financial worries, health concerns or problems in their personal life.
Job insecurity, excessive pressures, poor relationships with co-workers and work demands that are too high for the skills of the individual can all contribute to stress in the workplace.
Stress manifests itself in different ways. When experiencing stress, some people may become more irritable and withdrawn, while others might be more prone to mood swings, outbursts of anger or physical symptoms such as headaches and fatigue.
Impacts of Workplace Stress on Employers
For employers, the cost of work-related stress can be high, leading to reduced productivity, increased absenteeism and higher staff turnover.
It can also have an impact on organisational culture, leading to a decrease in morale and engagement.
Employees who are feeling stressed may struggle with work performance, job satisfaction and may experience issues with their physical health that further reduces their ability to perform at their best.
In addition to this, employers may be legally liable for workplace stress if they are deemed to have failed in their duty of care to protect employees. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible for enforcing health and safety legislation in the UK and can take action if they find an employer in breach of these standards.
Managing Stress in the Workplace
The first step to managing workplace stress is identifying and addressing the root causes.
This may involve restructuring workloads, introducing flexible working hours, providing support systems or improving communication between employees and managers.
Employers should also be aware of the signs of stress such as changes in behaviour, reduced motivation or poor performance. They can then provide appropriate help and resources to their employees, including access to counselling services or mental health care professionals.
It's important for employers to create an open and supportive environment where employees feel comfortable discussing any issues they may have without fear of judgement. Encouraging individuals to take short breaks throughout the day is also beneficial - even a few minutes away from work can be beneficial in helping to reduce stress and restore concentration levels.
Tips for Reducing Stress in the Workplace
1. Establish boundaries
Boundaries are essential to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Encourage employees to be clear about when they are working, and when they need time off or to take a break. Make sure that everyone understands the importance of respecting these boundaries.
This means setting realistic goals and expectations, making sure company documentation reflects realistic workloads and deadlines. Provide clear instructions and guidance on how to complete tasks, and ensure that there is enough time for employees to carry out their work in a reasonable manner.
How to start today:
Create a schedule and stick to it
Schedule regular breaks throughout the day
Set clear goals and expectations
Re-evaluate deadlines as needed
Performing risk assessments to identify potential workplace stressors
2. Create an inclusive environment
Create an open and supportive culture where employees are encouraged to speak up about their needs and worries. Make sure everyone's opinion is valued and that staff members feel comfortable talking openly about their mental health. Also, providing flexible working options such as part-time, remote or compressed hours can be beneficial for reducing stress levels.
How to start today:
Promote an atmosphere of openness and respect
Offer flexible working hours or options for remote work
Create a safe space for employees to express themselves
3. Promote physical and mental wellbeing
Encourage employees to make time for regular physical activity and provide the appropriate resources or incentives to help them stay healthy. Invest in quality healthcare coverage and wellness programs, such as meditation classes or financial education seminars, that can help reduce stress levels.
How to start today:
Provide access to fitness facilities or membership discounts
Offer educational sessions on mental health topics
Encourage staff members to take breaks throughout the day
If appropriate, offer a counselling service to teach employees coping techniques
4. Foster meaningful connections
Social support is an important part of managing stress. Help employees build strong relationships with their colleagues and encourage them to identify mentors or coaches who can provide guidance on how to cope with stressful situations.
How to start today:
Arrange team-building activities and social events to develop good relationships
Provide opportunities for staff members to work in small groups
Create a platform where employees can ask questions or seek advice from peers
A stressful work environment can have a significant impact on both individuals and businesses.
From increased absenteeism to poor performance, it's important that employers take steps to reduce stress in the workplace and create an open and supportive environment where employees feel safe and valued.
The key is to start small and make incremental changes over time. With the right measures in place, employers can foster an effective workplace culture that helps employees manage stress and stay productive.