Be part of the solution to workplace stress

5 min read | Hannah Pearsall | Article | Corporate social responsibility Wellbeing People and culture Learning and development

workplace stress

Stress is a pervasive issue in the world of work. Even if you don’t regularly suffer from the adverse effects of stress yourself, chances are they’re having an impact on your workforce. According to our recent LinkedIn survey, 74% of people currently feel stressed about work and another survey shows that 76% of people experience high levels of stress at work at least once a week. So how can we, as business leaders, be part of the solution to workplace stress?

Understanding the bigger picture

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction a person has to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed upon them’. High levels of stress can have physical and mental health implications, and in severe cases can lead to high blood pressure and the worsening of existing health conditions. Lesser-known symptoms of stress include changes to menstrual cycles, fatigue, and lapses in memory.

If you or one of your colleagues are suffering from stress, this can also impact your team’s productivity, performance, and morale. Statistics from the HSE show that nearly one million employees suffered from work-related stress, depression, or anxiety last year and an estimated 17 million working days were lost as a result. This makes stress and poor mental health the top cause of work-related ill health, since it’s accountable for over half the total number of working days lost last year.

Noticing the warning signs

Workplace stress might typically be envisioned as someone sitting at a desk with their head in their hands. However, identifying employees suffering from stress isn’t always this straightforward, and the warning signs can often be harder to spot. Changes in workplace behaviour, including unusual quietness, withdrawal from social situations, and heightened sensitivity, can all signal that an employee might be suffering from stress or anxiety. As a manager, you may notice one of your employees being late or absent more frequently, missing deadlines, or producing work of varying quality. If you’re able to effectively detect the warning signs among your employees, you can engage in productive conversations about the causes of stress and direct them to wellbeing support.

Opening channels of communication

Don’t underestimate the impact that open and honest conversations can have. By engaging in regular dialogue with your employees about their workload and mental health, you can gain an understanding of their triggers, share examples of coping mechanisms, make appropriate adjustments to expectations, and build trust. Some introverted employees may find it difficult to speak authentically with business leaders about their mental health, and in these cases, it’s important to signpost other places they can go for support, be it a human resource (HR) professional, a mental health first aider, an internal support group, or a charity.

Fostering a positive company culture

Our recent LinkedIn survey shows that only 13% of professionals believe their employer has implemented sufficient strategies for overcoming stress, so there’s definitely more work to be done. Taking steps to establish a company culture where employees feel valued and supported is an ideal place to start. For example, if you have remote or hybrid working policies in place, ensure your employees have all the necessary tools and know where to go for support if they need it. This will benefit both you and your team, as you can trust your employees to perform without the need to micromanage from afar, leaving them empowered to deliver a high standard of work.

Leaders should set a precedent when it comes to healthy working habits and it’s crucial to encourage employees to work sensible hours, take regular breaks, and utilise their full annual leave entitlement. Implementing initiatives, like meeting-free days, regular team building activities, wellbeing time, and partly or fully funded gym memberships can help to create a positive company culture and alleviate workplace stress.

To learn more about how to support your team’s mental health and be part of the solution to workplace stress, take a look at our free online training courses today.

About this author

Hannah Pearsall, Head of Wellbeing, Hays UK&I

Hannah has over 20 years of recruitment experience across a number of business areas, including construction and property, technology, engineering, energy, social care, human resources and procurement. She is now the Head of Wellbeing at Hays and leads on the design, development, implementation and delivery of a holistic and evolving wellbeing strategy for the UK and Ireland.

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