April is Stress Awareness Month, which means that, even without the added dimension of the coronavirus pandemic, more of us will be discussing stress and its impact across life, relationships and the workplace.
Stress is a physical and mental state that is often cited as a necessary part of life. In certain situations, stress is a motivator, helping us stay on track to achieve goals and move ahead. However, persistent, excessive stress can have a negative impact on both our physical and mental health.
What are the negative effects of stress?
When humans are under stress, our bodies release a cocktail of hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. This activates a “fight or flight” response, where our bodies will be in a heightened state of awareness. This causes our hearts to beat faster, our breaths to quicken, our muscles to tighten, and also causes a rise in blood pressure.
Too much of this, and you’ll start to feel unwell. Because your mind and body are focused so hard on the stressful situation, you may find it difficult to concentrate on work. You may become more irritable or find sleeping difficult. You might also find that you experience physical symptoms, like body aches, headaches or experience illness more frequently.
How Can Workplace Stress Be Prevented?
The workplace is crucial to stress management and awareness, as work is often a cause of preventable or exacerbated stress. According to the Labour Force Survey (2019), 12.8 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. Therefore, it’s extremely important for organisations to have a plan in place.
It’s crucial to remember that it’s not an employer’s or a line manager’s job to diagnose or treat stress, whatever its cause. If an employee is having problems, it’s important that they get help as soon as possible. Whether an employer is a small business or a large corporation, the law requires all employers to assess the risk of work-related stress and to put steps in place to tackle those risks.
Line managers can play an important role in helping to implement these measures and there are many tools, resources and guides available to help employers in deciding what these measures should be. By taking action employers can help create a more engaged, healthy workforce, boost productivity and save money. Employers have reported improvements in productivity, retention of staff and a reduction in sickness absence when tackling work-related stress.
Improve Stress and Mental Health Awareness Within Your Senior Team
While most of us could confidently say that we’re able to identify the main symptoms of stress, it can be much more difficult to recognise when someone is struggling – especially if they don’t want to draw attention to it.
Some less well-known indicators of stress can include lack of motivation, which might translate as lateness or increased absence. Employees who are stressed may, however, appear more motivated, for example, skipping lunch breaks or working longer hours. This might be disguising stress symptoms like poor concentration, poor appetite or low self-esteem.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to ensure your senior team are more aware of stress and mental health issues within the workplace. To do this, you could implement mental health training workshops or courses that would help to improve your team’s ability to recognise and respond appropriately to these issues.
Implement Employee Benefits Programmes That Offer Support
Are there initiatives in place within your organisation to offer assistance to those struggling with stress? Measures can be put in place to support those currently suffering with high stress levels, and services such as those offered by connected employee benefits packages can provide education and guidance.
Stress support doesn’t just end at an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). There are a range of programmes your organisation can implement to help employees improve their wellbeing, such as assisting with mindfulness, relaxation and meditation, and much more.
It’s important to understand that stress can be caused or exacerbated by a huge variety of physical, mental and financial factors.
Let Your Employees Know That Help Is Out There
If you’ve got a plan in place to tackle stress within your workplace, it’s important to spread the word. You can do this by communicating messages within your internal communications that will let employees know that your organisation is there to support them through times of stress.
It’s also a good idea to include information about these programmes within your recruitment process, as if potential employees are able to see that your organisation is on top of stress within the workplace, they’re more likely to consider you a good place to work.
With the additional stress of COVID-19, the heightened importance to support your staff’s mental health is more crucial than ever before. We would like you to have some support from us with our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). We have taken the decision to offer this mental health support for free to all public sector organisations over the next three months and £1 per head, per month for three months for private sector organisation.
Our EAP offers staff a 24/7, 365 telephone helpline and a range of information and practical support for problems at work and at home. In addition, employees can access a wide range of online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) workbooks covering all major concerns. For more details visit www.vivup.co.uk or contact [email protected]
About the Author
Simon Moyle is the Commercial and Strategy Director at Vivup, the leading public sector employee benefits provider in the UK. Being able to make a real difference to employees’ lives is a key driver for Simon and he is passionate about finding ways to achieve this.