Workplace stress - It's time to discuss the elephant in the room

Employer advice

The call for an increased support of wellbeing in the workplace is not a new sentiment; the government published their Health, Work and Wellbeing: Caring for our Future report in 2005 and revealed that in 2004 there were 609,000 reported cases of absence due to ill-health at work, 42% was attributed to stress.

Companies have embraced the buzzword workplace wellbeing through an abundance of offerings such as flexible working, free fruit, and subsidised gym membership and cycle to work schemes in order to be healthy in mind, body and soul. These benefits are designed to encourage workers to relieve themselves from work life pressures through leaving early, working from home, eating well and keeping fit without breaking the bank; yet the intended results do not appear to be working. Citation, the business support consultants, have uncovered that over a third of employees have left a job due to stress.

Combating stress in your organisation

Over half of employees surveyed that have suffered with stress at work feel too afraid to communicate or show that they are stressed in turn causing more pressure and mental strain upon workers. More than a quarter believed that admitting they were stressed made them look weak and just under a fifth were concerned with the negative impact it could have upon their career. Stress is the elephant in the room in organisations right across the UK and it needs to be addressed in order to increase general worker mental wellbeing and to stop talented employees resigning due to workplace pressures that could have been solved.

Learning and development

With such a high number of workers feeling that stress shows weakness it's evident that organisations can do more to create a culture where people are able to openly discuss their triggers, issues and how they can overcome feeling stressed at work. Wellbeing workshops can be orchestrated through external parties such as The Wellbeing Project and Feel Good Company who both offer resources, training, assessment and workshops for corporations. These qualified trainers will be able to assist and support teams through the most appropriate method that fits to an organisation's style i.e. general advice, online learning and onsite day or half-day training.

The support will not only show current employees that you as an employer are taking mental wellbeing seriously at work and are not afraid or ignorant to address it, but it can also attract candidates as an increasing number of job seekers look to companies who value, support and understand the importance of their employees' mental and physical health.

Employee mentors

39% of employees that have suffered with work-related stress stated that they would rather continue to work with a declining mental state rather than speak to their boss, according to research carried out by PWC. Internal mentoring schemes are a way of overcoming any concerns employees have about discussing sensitive issues with their boss. Mentors provide a safe haven for employees to discuss any issues that are impacting their work in a confidential environment where no judgement will take place. Employees can volunteer to be mentors as well as asking to be placed with a mentor and when matched the mentor and mentee will be from different departments so there are no conflicts of interest and trust can be formed.

Getting sociable

Employees spend more time with their colleagues than their own family and friends. Don't just make the time employees spend together be at their desks working. Team days out at the beginning of a quarter can bring staff closer together and encourage a motivated and positive mindset for the next set of challenges that'll be occurring over the quarter. Celebratory lunches or a fun evening event such as bowling will also help to keep up employee morale and show that that their employer appreciates and rewards hard work with a few hours off from work to have fun.

Rest breaks

Taking a break may appear to be the worst thing to do when a deadline is approaching or a client is waiting for a resolution within the hour however, taking time to relax and recuperate can help your employees to de-stress and be more productive.

The human brain was not built to focus on a task for an extended period of time, as much as we like to think we are able to do this effectively, we can't. To keep the mind on track, continuing to be creative and productive the University of Illinois Psychology Professor Alejandro Lleras states that deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused. Encourage your employees to take mini breaks and to leave their desks at lunch.

Duty of care

Workplace stress has attributed to an increase in absenteeism, reduction of role responsibility and decline in both employee retention and candidate attraction overall costing organisations money, time, resources and their brand reputation. Stress related illnesses that stem from increasing work pressures can be solved through an organisation's attitude and action towards mental health. It is for line managers and the board to accept and embrace that stress and the impact of it can no longer be ignored and must be tackled in order to retain a workforce that is loyal, happy and productive.

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