We’ve all experienced stress in the workplace – to an extent, it’s a normal part of working life. Deadlines, demands and long days are to be expected, but when the stress of these becomes too much, it can start to take its toll, both physically and mentally. With April officially being Stress Awareness Month, it’s the time to start considering the impact that stress might be having on your workplace.
It may come as little surprise than in our hectic modern age, by 2020 depression is predicted to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide. Workplace stress can be a huge contributing factor to mental health issues – in 2016/17, over half a million workers in the UK reported that they were suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety, losing 12.5 million working days overall. This means that almost half of all working days lost due to ill health were due to stress.
Despite the stress epidemic having serious repercussions for businesses, many employees worry about discussing the impact for fear of being seen as unable to handle their workload, or being viewed as a weak member of the team. As a result, they are unlikely to be open about their struggles and may be suffering in silence. So, how do you know if your employees are battling stress?
Signs of stress
- Reduced productivity – If the performance of an employee who is usually engaged and productive starts to slide, stress could be the cause. If you spot a difference in their usual working habits, it’s worth questioning why that could be.
- Displays of emotion – An employee who is usually calm and laid-back suddenly becoming visibly angry or upset could be a sign that they are struggling. Similarly, an employee who is struggling to control their temper could be bottling up stress.
- Becoming withdrawn – If an employee is usually sociable and talkative and you notice that they are starting to withdraw from social interaction, they could be feeling the effects of stress.
- Absenteeism – Increased amounts of sick days should be a cause for concern, as stress could be at the root of it.
You should also be on the lookout for more widespread signs of stress across the workforce, such as increased staff disputes, general absenteeism and a higher staff turnover. Once you have identified potential problems with stress in your business, it’s time to take action. The most commonly reported causes of stress in the workplace include an unmanageable workload, lack of support, and significant changes, so these factors should all be taken into consideration when working towards a low-stress working environment.
- When setting tasks for your employees, make sure that there are elements of autonomy involved, such as being able to manage their own time and planning their own work schedules. This will make your employees feel trusted, valued and more in control of their own work.
- If it seems to be their workload that is causing the most stress, look into ways of reducing it. Work should be challenging, but it should also be realistic, so help your employees to prioritise their jobs, cut out unnecessary tasks and encourage them to speak up if they’re starting to struggle.
- Make sure that your staff are maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Ensure that they are using their allocated holiday entitlement, encourage them to use their lunch hour to take a breather and remind them to step away from their work email account out of hours.
- As workplace bullying can be a contributing factor to stress, make sure that you have comprehensive disciplinary and grievance procedures in place to reassure your staff that reports of bullying will be taken seriously.
- It’s important for your employees to feel comfortable discussing any problems that they may be dealing with. Adopting an open door policy will make them feel supported and appreciated and will increase loyalty towards the business, all of which will help increase productivity.
- Practice what you preach – as an employer, you’ll be leading by example, so make sure that you’re taking regular breaks and not working around the clock either.
Ignoring the impact of stress could mean potentially losing valuable members of staff and losing money through low productivity, so it’s important to adopt a working culture that offers support and understanding to those suffering from stress.