Stress in the workplace is unfortunately more common now than ever, with 33% of employees in the UK reporting that they experience moderate to high levels of stress at work, with causes ranging from poor relationships with other employees and managers, to heavy workloads and more.
Allowing workplace stress to build up over time can cause a significant impact to employees’ mental health, alongside reducing productivity and workplace satisfaction.
Whilst workplace stress is almost twice as common in large businesses, it’s crucial that all business owners know how to recognise workplace stress and understand how to help employees relieve their stress in a healthy way that won’t lead to burnout.
“As the discussion surrounding the importance of caring for your mental health has grown, there has been an increase in awareness of the effects that stress can have on your mental wellbeing. There are a range of reasons that people may be feeling stressed at work.
“Business owners should be able to recognise the signs that a member of staff is experiencing high levels of stress and should aim to reduce as much stress for employees as possible.
“Failure to appropriately handle stress in the workplace could lead to businesses seeing more staff experience burnout and quit their jobs to preserve their mental health. In the long-run, it’s far more beneficial for business owners and employees alike to address causes of stress in the workplace head-on.”
To help business owners know what signs to look out for and identify ways to reduce stress in their workplace, Connor has shared five tips to consider now:
- Carry out a stress risk assessment in the workplace
Whilst knowing how to address stress is crucial, employers should be aiming to prevent as much stress as possible in the first place. One of the best ways to understand what factors might be contributing to workplace stress is to carry out an assessment to identify areas that could cause excessive stress and plan out solutions.
Businesses are required by law to carry out risk assessments for their workplace, and this applies to both physical risks and mental health risks.
This is a great way for small businesses to keep on top of stress prevention in the workplace, by knowing which areas to focus on more and dedicate the most attention to. This also helps business owners establish safety expectations and put deadlines in place to bring the areas that could be a stress-factor back in line.
- Develop a framework for mental health support
One way that business owners can help prevent stress at work is through the creation of a mental health framework.
Business owners should aim to accommodate employees’ mental health requirements, and try to promote positive mental health outcomes wherever possible. Having a structured organisation framework can help both employees and employers know what is expected of them, and ensure that workplace cultures put mental health at the forefront.
Workdays should be as structured as possible, with minimal last-minute tasks being put upon employees. The HR department should provide easy access to mental health support resources, whether that’s in the form of redirecting to helplines, online resources, or the presence of an on-site counsellor.
Employees may also be less-likely to feel stressed at work if they are kept in the loop about work-related events and growth. Transparency and accountability are key to building a good rapport with staff, so regular meetings or announcements should be put in place to help employees stay informed about what is happening with the company.
- Know the signs of workplace stress early-on
Not all workplace stresses can be prevented, but it is important to intervene early-on to prevent stress accumulating and leading to burnout. In order to be able to intervene effectively, business owners should make themselves aware of the signs of workplace stress.
There are a number of resources available for managers and business owners to familiarise themselves with the signs of workplace stress, but the major factors to look out for are a change in work performance, a sudden increase in workplace conflict or emotional responses, and withdrawal from the workplace – whether through taking days off or arriving late and leaving early.
Other signs include nervous behaviours, such as stumbling through speech, excessive sweating, sudden weight loss or weight gain, and an increase in frequency of headaches. This isn’t a conclusive list of stress symptoms, but these are some of the most common signs that an employee may be feeling particularly stressed.
Business owners or managers that notice these symptoms should approach the employee confidentially to discuss any issues they may be having.
- Encourage employees to discuss issues they might have
Once you’ve identified possible signs of stress in an employee, it’s important to intervene as soon as possible and start to put resolutions into place to help reduce their stress levels. Of course, to do this you’ll need to discuss your concerns with the employee in particular, whilst remembering that you’re discussing a sensitive topic.
These conversations are much easier to have, and tend to yield better results, if business owners or managers have a good relationship with employees and have worked on building a good rapport.
It’s a good idea to remind employees during meetings and announcements of relevant HR channels that can be approached with any concerns they have. This remains true regardless of whether you, as a business owner, are the port of call for your staff, or whether you have appointed a manager to handle employee concerns.
- Ensure that line-managers are well integrated
One of the key concerns raised by employees that are experiencing workplace stress is workplace politics, including not getting along with management, or having an issue with the management system that has been implemented.
In order to help combat this stress factor, employers should seek to ensure that managerial positions are filled by compassionate workers that are able to integrate well into the workforce and build healthy relationships with colleagues.
Of course, managers have a job to do, and part of that is ensuring that all tasks get done and work runs smoothly. However, it’s important to make sure that managers understand their duties and responsibilities, and that they don’t overstep any professional boundaries in terms of distributing the workload in an unfair way. This is also important to protect the mental health of those in managerial positions, alongside regular employees.
By creating better workplace dynamics wherein managers aren’t seen as a figure to be afraid of, and coworkers have amicable relationships at the least, this can help to significantly reduce one of the biggest sources of workplace stress experienced by employees.