Work related stress – How businesses can make the difference!

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A workforce survey suggested that 51% of all work-related sickness absences from work are due to stress, anxiety and depression. So not only is there a human impact here, but there is a massive impact for businesses in terms of productivity and staff engagement. That 51% equates to 17.9 million working days lost in the UK per year.

So what is work related stress?

The HSE (Health & Safety Executive) define it as the adverse reaction to excessive pressure of work or other demands placed on people.

Basically, when stress is triggered and becomes excessive there are usually several reasons such as long working hours, tight deadlines, pressurised environments, lack of support, poor line management, poor work relationships or poor management of change within an organisation.

Business should be looking at ways to mitigate this risk factors. There is also a legal requirement to have stress risk assessed in the workplace and documented. Unfortunately, all too often businesses are unaware or do not have the resources to manage this requirement well.

What are the signs of work-related stress?

Stress can look different for each person, but the most important sign is usually a change in that persons behaviour in the work place. Some common signs of those changes to be aware of are:

  • Low mood
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Irritability
  • Turning to alcohol as a coping tool
  • Reduced productivity
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Digestive issues
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Breathlessness
  • Minor illnesses such as colds and flu
  • Headaches
  • Backache
  • Defensiveness
  • Negative outlook
  • Absenteeism
  • Presenteeism

What I think is also important to highlight here is that many of these signs could also be signs of developing mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety.

What can businesses do to help?

First awareness is key, with education of staff to recognise the signs and symptoms either in themselves or their colleagues is a great way to detect early signs and offer support to encourage recovery.

Training your line managers in stress and resilience and how to affectively manage and mitigate the risks within their own teams is crucial if we are to make a positive impact and reduce the cases we see across the UK. An employee’s view of the culture of a business is directly affected by their line manager. Your line managers hold so much power to make a difference and investing in them is such an important step to getting this right in your organisation.

Have an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) in place that is easy to use and well published. Offer a range of support for employees and their dependants.

You should have a Wellbeing Strategy for your business. This should be a live document with an owner who is accountable and responsible for the implementation, development, and review. It is creating a psychologically safe environment for both people and businesses to thrive.

Thanks for listening.

Claire Bennett

Mental Health & Wellbeing Consultant

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