We are all stressed. Four in ten people worldwide report feeling regularly stressed, 13.7 workdays are lost every year in the UK due to stress at a cost of £28.3 billion to the economy. That’s the financial implication but what’s the real cost – and how can employers help?
It’s been a rough couple of years and whilst an increase in stress for employees cannot be totally attributed to the effects of the global pandemic it cannot be disregarded either, workers have had to go through several periods of adjustment in a short space of time, getting used to working from home or not working at all due to furlough, caring for children and relatives to returning to the workplace, commuting and social activities, 42% of people report feeling more exhausted in 2022 than ever before.
Added to this societal and economic influences, the war in Ukraine, an ever-increasing cost of living crisis, a looming recession, climate crisis it’s no wonder that as many as four in 10 adults worldwide said they experienced a lot of worry or stress on a regular basis.
Managing stress in the workplace
Stress in the workplace is a real cause for concern from the previously mentioned financial implication to the impact on worker’s mental health it can be a tough symptom to help manage particularly when some of the causes of stress are likely to be external and wider factors. So what can employers do to help?
Creating a well-being strategy as part of your overall Health & Safety policy sends a strong and clear message to your employees that their health is a priority. Setting out what you will do as an organisation to support stress management, mental health and wellbeing in the workplace also encourages the exploration of different ways of providing that support, and regular reviews to ensure that you know you are doing as much as you can to support employee wellbeing and reduce stress.
Data has revealed that the number one cause of work-related stress is workload, closely followed by lack of support. A heavy workload is physically and emotionally tiring If an employee’s workload is too heavy they may feel that they need to work longer hours, skip rest breaks or work at home to keep up. Employers can help by regularly reviewing workloads and setting expectations and recognising employee behaviours that suggest a workload is becoming too heavy.
Enforce Annual Leave
Many workplaces now have a flexible approach to annual leave, meaning the traditional set amount of holiday days simply doesn’t exist in some organisations or that employees can choose when they take leave and manage their own work patterns, however, there is a downside. According to a Glassdoor survey, only 60% of employees used their full holiday allowance in 2021. Regular breaks are essential to refresh and lessen burnout so the responsibility must then return to employers to ensure employees are using holiday days whether there is a fixed entitlement or not, and where needed enforcing days off and where appropriate tech holidays too allowing the opportunity for employees to fully disconnect from the workplace.
Focus On Relationships
Stress levels are always higher in an atmosphere where people don’t get along and respect one another and whilst you cannot force your employees to like each other you can create a culture of trust and respect which will go a long way towards helping individuals manage stress. Poor relationships can have negative effects which last beyond the end of the workday so whilst it’s easy to focus just on the tasks at hand, employers must also focus on the people carrying out the tasks and how those teams are working effectively together or not – and where is a potential cause for conflict or stress.
Create Financial Security
Financial issues can cause an overwhelming amount of stress in work and personal lives and here you can make a massive contribution towards stress reduction, it is simple enough to say pay your employees enough but finances are complex so it is important to not only do this but to have regular and transparent conversations about the financial position of your organisation. An employee who really needs a payrise but who is unlikely to get one would far rather know about this and be able to take action than be kept in the dark. Beyond this, you must also ensure that your employees have access to resources meaning they don’t necessarily have to have conversations about something they deem private with you (their employer) but can access the help they need.
Invest in Mental Health Expertise
In conclusion, there is a lot employers can do to support the reduction of stress and mental health and we’ve left one of the most important until last: investing in mental health expertise whether that’s someone to consult and input on health and safety and HR strategies or investing in counselling, financial advisors or even hiring into your business someone who holds responsibility for ensuring the wellbeing of your employees – you cannot put a price on the impact this kind of expertise can have on your business.
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