Combating Workplace Stress

Combating Workplace Stress

April was stress awareness month and this week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and with so many conversations happening around the importance of strong and supportive health and well-being strategies and policies being implemented within organisations, as well as the pressures and uncertainty caused by the current cost of living crisis and other every day circumstances, the awareness around workplace stress and what we can do to combat it is more crucial now than ever.

Workplace stress continues to be one of the biggest causes of short-term and long-term absence in the workforce despite companies taking greater measures to try to tackle and improve mental health and well-being within the workplace. As a recruitment agency, one of the most common trends we are seeing from potential hires is the request for flexibility and strong well-being policies and procedures being built into offers and benefits packages, with the culture of an organisation being one of the most important factors for a candidate.  

Stress can have a huge impact on someone’s mental and physical health and become increasingly overwhelming and unbearable for individuals – I’m sure we can all remember a period of stress in our time and how it made us feel and react, which is why it is so important to recognise and get on top of stressful situations quickly, particularly at work where we are more likely to have an element of control over them. 

Workplace stress can be brought on by a whole host of reasons including:

  • Workload
  • A continual and overwhelming level of pressure
  • Poor Management
  • Constant changes
  • Inadequate training
  • Lack of support, recognition and reward
  • Unhealthy workplace relationships
  • Job Security
  • Changes to or difficulties within someone’s personal life (relationships, finances, etc)
  • Personal health
  • Limited work life harmony and balance

If not recognised and dealt with, workplace stress can have detrimental affects on an organisation including increased absence, which leads to poor engagement and ultimately less productivity within the workforce. If not recognised and resolved it can also lead to high staff turnover and a loss of talent and skills. With this in mind, it is important to be able to recognise workplace stress which can include:

  • Working long hours
  • Working on days off
  • Not taking breaks or any allocated holiday
  • Increasing absence from work
  • Looking tired
  • Changes in behaviour such as less motivated, engaged and interested
  • Underperformance
  • Increased emotional reactions
  • High staff turnover

As organisations and leaders, it is therefore important that we are dealing with the biggest causes of workplace stress at the roots and ensuring we are equipping our businesses, leaders and team members with the tools, resources and training as well as the access to support and guidance when it comes to handling stress caused by work. We should also be creating an environment where people feel comfortable enough to speak out about any situations that are causing them stress whether that be work or personal which can of course cross over into the workplace.

Image of stressed man at work

Some things that organisations and employers can do to try to help combat workplace stress include:  

  • Creating a stress management strategy for your organisation
  • Include a stress guide/ policy in your staff handbook based on your stress management strategy
  • Provide sources of support such as an employee assistance programme
  • Ensure team members have the resources and tools they need to do their job well
  • Have a stress outlet for your employees by running stress related surveys and risk assessments
  • Include stress management as part of your training programme for colleagues aimed at building resilience, coping skills and boosting mental health and well-being.
  • Include training for managers on spotting the signs of burnout and managing stress
  • Hold regular 1 to 1’s and reviews
  • Carry out return to work interviews
  • Review and keep on top of workloads and responsibilities
  • Encourage breaks
  • Recognise achievements, give feedback and reward good work
  • Identify and handle any workplace conflicts or people issues early on and ensure thorough policies and training is provided for the whole workforce.

As team members and employees, it is also important to recognise any work-related stress in ourselves, and take action accordingly. Some examples of what to do when you recognise that you are becoming overwhelmed with workplace stress include:

  • Confiding in your line manager or HR team explaining how you are feeling and that you would like support and help
  • Taking advantage of any well-being benefits such as well-being days or employee assistance programmes.
  • Take regular breaks
  • Set boundaries
  • Make time for your wellbeing basics outside of work such as getting a good amount of sleep, exercising and even taking up a hobby that takes you away from your stress – take time to do things that make you happy 
  • Avoid negative or toxic relationships in the workplace
  • Identify what it is that is causing your stress and write this down
  • Step away from habits that fuel stress such as continually checking emails on the evening and weekends and actually step away from work.
  • Set realistic goals and prioritise tasks
  • Create a comfortable work environment
  • Ask for any extra training, catch ups or request any resources you feel will make your job less stressful.
  • If you have tried all avenues to combat your stress and nothing is working then consider changing department, team or role

Being able to recognise and combat workplace stress within yourself and your organisation is so important and vital to creating a workplace culture where people feel supported, successful and able to be open about any concerns they have, which will ultimately create a more positive, empowering and productive workforce!

Inspired is always learning and conducting research to ensure we can provide our clients and candidates with useful advice and helpful resources on both recruiting and retaining great teams. You can explore other similar topics in relation to workplace stress in the rest of our library such as:

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