According to a recent study, two-thirds of UK employees have felt stressed and/or anxious about work in the last 12 months, yet less than 1-in-10 say their organisation is ‘very good’ at preventing it.
With National Stress Awareness Day around the corner, we look at the ways employers can reduce employee stress and provide the right support.
Calm the workload worries
In the same study, Acas found the most common reason for occupational stress is an unmanageable workload (60%), followed by how employees are managed (42%) and struggling to strike a work-life balance (35%).
When it comes to calming workload worries, discouraging multitasking is key, as it is less productive, reduces efficiency and kills employees’ performance. It also prevents you from giving the proper time and attention to each task.
Instead, promote the idea of ‘uni-tasking’, where employees work on one task at a time. Encourage staff to switch-off email to ‘do not disturb’ while working on important tasks and let them know it’s okay to reply to emails in scheduled chunks, rather than being responsive throughout the day.
You may have team members – especially millennials and younger employees – who are used to multi-tasking. Schedule daily team meetings to go through the tasks of the day and suggest that employees write to-do-lists, working on high-priority tasks first.
Value employee wellbeing
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to employee health and wellbeing, with almost three-fifths of UK organisations reporting they act flexibly depending on the wellbeing needs of individuals.
Organisations that take a reactive approach to wellbeing are less likely to promote healthy habits than those with wellbeing strategies in place.
Whatever the size of your business, there are steps you can take to improve the health and wellbeing of your employees. Some possible benefits you can provide include:
Discounted corporate gym membership
Workshops on how to manage your finances
Offering mental health support to employees through seminars and one-to-ones with professionals
Inviting experts like nutritionists and personal trainers in to provide healthy living tips
Introducing an employee recognition scheme that celebrates successful employees
Offering flexible working arrangements
When employees are stressed, they often find themselves reaching for sugary foods and drinks. Not only does long term stress increase appetite and the motivation to eat, but it also makes you reach for foods high in fat and sugar, otherwise known as “comfort” foods, which have addictive qualities.
Employers have a responsibility to look after the health of employees and this may include providing healthy food options in the office, to encourage more nutritious snacking.
For smaller businesses, this could be as simple as scheduling weekly fresh fruit or wellness boxes to the office for employees to snack on.
Larger companies looking to provide more variety may benefit from the Express HUB – a self-service hub stocked with a range of healthy snacks, drinks, sandwiches and fruits, chosen by you.
Invest in your management team
The second most common cause of workplace stress is the way an employee is managed, so investing in training for those in management roles can have a significant impact on the wellbeing of the wider team.
Provide managers with regular internal and external training to make sure they’re equipped with the skills to not only manage time and project work but also to provide support to those dealing with personal or emotional wellbeing issues.
There are plenty of training courses available, but it’s recommended to look for accredited human resources companies like the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Acas for industry-leading training.
Create a culture of transparency and openness, in which all employees know their feedback is valued. The more insight you can get into employees’ needs and causes of stress, the easier it will be for managers to provide the right support.
Mental health provisions
Sometimes, workplace stress can take its toll on employees’ home lives, resulting in a breakdown in personal relationships and money problems. And that’s because high stress-levels can make people more prone to developing mental health problems.
A recent report found UK workplaces are facing a much larger mental health crisis than initially believed, revealing:
300,000 people with long-term mental health problems lose their jobs each year
Mental health issues cost employers between £33 – £42 billion annually
Only 11% of employees discussed mental health problems with line managers
Only 24% of managers have received training for mental health at work
Only 11% of top companies in Great Britain disclose information about their mental health initiatives to employees
Many UK workplaces have created a culture of silence. Employees are scared to speak out about mental health issues for fear of being discriminated against, but employers don’t always feel comfortable making the first contact with such a sensitive topic.
The Stevenson / Farmer review uses industry best practice, academic literature, guides and toolkits to design their “mental health standards”, which they suggest all employers introduce to the workplace:
Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
Develop mental health awareness among employees
Encourage open conversations about mental health and promote the support available when employees are struggling
Provide employees with good working conditions
Promote effective people management
Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing
It’s important to note that introducing new mental health provisions in the workplace can take time and will likely bring many obstacles. Before making changes, it’s important you open the discussion to your wider team, rather than leaving it solely with senior management, to see how all staff will benefit.
Try introducing some simpler provisions like creating open discussion in the workplace and working with employees to agree on deadlines to reduce stress and unmanageable workloads.
Knowing how to spot the signs of mental illnesses, which can include symptoms like feeling down and sudden changes in mood, will help you start discussions with employees and prompt them to get the help they need.