Managing stress in the workplace

Stress Awareness Month and Mental Health Awareness week have both been big topics of conversation across social media and in the workplace and so what better time to take a closer look at how businesses can prioritise the wellbeing of their staff.


Life is now returning to normal for most countries and we’ve all found ourselves being much busier than we have been for the last few years but when we’re all going at full speed, it can be harder to keep mental health at the forefront.


When the pandemic hit, there was a big emphasis placed on work life balance, selfcare and reassessing our priorities in life. Interestingly however, a new report from the CIPD and Simply health has found that health and wellbeing are slipping down the business agenda.


The report saw a drop in the number of HR professionals who think senior leaders encourage a focus on mental wellbeing through their actions and behaviours, falling from 48% in 2021 to 42% in 2022.[1]


A key point to note is that figures for 2020/21 showed that stress, depression or anxiety account for 50% of all work-related ill health[2] and it is on the rise. With this is mind, should employers actually being doing more to help their staff mitigate and manage stress in the workplace?


Recognising stress is the first step in being able to reduce it.


What does stress look like in a work environment?


Typically there are six main factors that lead to stress in the workplace. These include:

  1. Demands – employees may struggle to cope with the demands and expectations placed on them at work including working long hours or when ill
  2. Control – this could include not having control over how work is delivered as well as lack of flexibility, job insecurity
  3. Support – a lack of support from management or other team members, inadequate working environment, lack of resources an equipment
  4. Relationships – workplace conflicts are a huge cause of stress this includes micromanagement, discrimination, harassment, bullying and negative team culture
  5. Role – feeling trapped in a role, underappreciated, experiencing role conflict
  6. Change – feeling disengaged or disempowered due to workplace change, poor change management.

If businesses are going to take a proactive approach in addressing workplace stress the first step is to have open and honest conversations with staff at every level.


It is only through these types of discussions that key stress points will be identified and following that, solutions can

be implemented in order to make improvements.


Changing company culture


As wellbeing has become more of a buzzword it also seems to have become more of a tick box exercise for some businesses, whether it’s offering reduced gym memberships or free fruit in the staff canteen. However, being genuinely invested in the wellbeing of staff starts at the very heart of a company’s culture.


This involves how staff are treated by managers and how they interact with each other. Looking at the core values and operational expectations of a business can give a true reflection of whether wellbeing is actually a top priority.


For example:

  • Are long working hours encouraged?
  • Do staff sit at their desks at lunchtime?
  • Is flexible working off limits?
  • Are staff encouraged to be patient and show empathy to one another?
  • Does the company provide access to financial, mental and physical wellbeing support?

Businesses need to get the basics right when it comes to employee wellbeing otherwise staff will act with their feet and simply leave for another job.


Making positive changes to the overall culture will not only help to retain staff but will help to attract new talent to

the business.


Practical tips for managing wellbeing

  1. Encouraging self-care – there are lots of small self-care practises that can be implemented into the daily routine of every employee. Raising awareness and encouraging these things can be helpful. From taking regular breaks, keeping active, taking holidays and not feeling pressured to respond during out of hours. These small elements all add up to a more positive mindset.
  2. A culture of openness – some staff may feel they’ll be stigmatised if they admit to struggling with their workload or asking for help. Having a culture whereby people feel encouraged and supported if they’re in this position will reduce long term burnout and encourage healthier, happier employees.
  3. Promoting a sense of purpose – most jobs will involve an element of stress at some point but if employees are made to feel valued and can see how their work is contributing to the company goals, it can make a real difference to their mindset. This is also true of encouraging people to developing their career within a company which in the long run can ensure you nurture and retain talent within the business.

Ultimately, stress is a part of most of our lives but being able to manage it is the key factor that employers need to focus on. Instilling health and wellbeing within the company culture may require some work and commitment but will result in a happier, healthier and more productive work force.


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