Work-related stress is everywhere, with Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace study showing 44% of participants revealed they suffered from workplace stress daily.
Though some people treat workplace stress as a ‘norm’, or even a ‘motivator’, too much of it can seriously impact more than just your work – your mood, your body and your relationships can all decline.
In 2020/21 Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that stress, depression, or anxiety, accounted for 50% of all work-related ill health. Given that stress can lead to depression and anxiety, it’s clear that action is needed at workplaces to protect their staff.
Good management is crucial to resolving stress. Employees need to feel heard and confident that employers are making a change if work life is causing stress. Otherwise, stress will only spiral, and employees will either leave, need time off, or burn out.
Management expert and management enablement platform Piper's CEO, Sathya Smith says while stress in the workplace is unavoidable at times, it is important that it is managed correctly and the signs of employees struggling with stress are spotted early before it escalates.
"Managers need to identify and understand the sources of employees’ stress and advise on how they can provide support in response to their teams’ concerns.”
Here are some ways to achieve this
Nurture a healthy company culture
A mindful work culture doesn’t just happen, it must be created. It is crucial that businesses are encouraging a working environment where honest communication is valued, and where opinions and feelings are respected.
As many as 23% of employees from a 2021 study reported feeling stressed at work. Everyone experiences and deals with stress in different ways, and what may be easy for one person can be too much for another. Feeling able to discuss these issues with a manager or fellow employee can release some of the tension built by stress.
Many look to HR leaders and managers to give them a sense of direction when they are feeling overwhelmed; it's essential that support is in place when needed. Employees need to know that their management team is there to hear them and offer solutions wherever possible.
In some cases, this will mean conducting regular 1:1s with guided tools to ensure you communicate with and support your employees as best as possible. While, in other instances, further intervention may be needed, such as signposting to trusted mental health services or offering paid leave.
Lead by example
A hefty workload and an unhealthy work/life balance can further escalate feelings of stress. Employees need to know that it is okay to take a step back and have time away from work to fully switch off. When people in leadership roles demonstrate this behaviour while achieving their goals at work, it encourages their workers to do the same.
It is also vital that HR leaders and managers communicate candidly about stress and encourage employees to speak up if they are struggling, opening the floor for conversation.
Spot the signs
Spotting the signs of stress is not always easy, especially with remote working when most communication is held online. However, some common signs to look out for are:
- Decreased performance
- Mood swings or sudden change in behaviour
- Loss of motivation, confidence, and engagement
- Missed deadlines
“Today, employees are expecting more from their workplace. Workers desire a culture in which they can grow, professionally and otherwise, as well as a space where they feel confident enough to speak openly about any issues or concerns,” says Smith.
“Employers need to actively encourage this kind of environment while also leading by example when it comes to handling stress, addressing it head-on rather than bottling it up. When employees see their managers establishing healthy boundaries, they follow suit, leading to a happier and more productive workforce,” she adds.