Managing Workplace Stress

The number of people suffering with stress, anxiety and depression is continually on the rise. In society today, this largely stems from working life, with pressures from increasing workloads being taken home with employees. Health Shield research suggests that 48.3% of people aged between 35-44 are suffering with high stress levels. This could be your employees and their health and wellbeing, their productivity and your absence management levels.

Long-term stress is a common issue for many people, with many still not admitting they are stressed and taking steps to manage it. CIPD’s 2016 absence management survey identified stress as the biggest cause of long-term absence, and the second highest cause of short-term absence. Of course, a little bit of stress can be helpful in certain positions and give your employees additional drive. However, there is a line that is all too often crossed.

Contributing factors can differ greatly from company and person. Common issues include; low salaries, a fear of being made redundant, workloads, opportunity for growth, job control and a lack of support in the work place. The longer work related stress continues the worse it gets and the bigger the impact. It is a heavily covered issue and the effects have even been known to extend to self-harming as a coping strategy. An extreme measure that indicates just how much of an issue workplace stress can be.

Health Shield data shows that stress increases with age but can be linked to many other areas of health and wellbeing. These include the consumption of alcohol. Almost 1 in 4 men with high stress levels drink more than the recommended daily amount. The participation in exercise is also linked to stress. If a female is stressed she is more likely to take part in exercise as a form of relief than males.

As an employer, reducing the stress levels of your employees can have a large impact on your business and help you to look after your employee health and wellbeing. But what are you looking for? What are the signs that your employees are suffering with an increase in stress levels?

Do they complain of an increase in headaches, sleep disturbance and have difficulty concentrating? These are initial signs of short term stress. The longer it persists and the worse it gets, the health issues increase to include anxiety and high blood pressure.

The most popular ways of dealing with stress are classic methods that everyone can admit to doing. Overeating, or eating the wrong fatty and unhealthy foods and an increase or a take up of smoking.

Helping you manage your office stress:

  • The first step as a superior, is to manage the approach. Ensure your employees know that you are on their side and available whenever they need help.
  • Tell them that if they are feeling any levels of stress to let you know so you can help them identify the problem. This could include regular meetings with them, asking them to keep track of situations, which include all details to identify the problem.
  • Providing a springboard to vent their work, or non-work related frustrations. Use this time to help develop healthy and positive responses that assist in easing their tensions.
  • The last thing you want is for your employees to be forced to take time off work – for their sake and your company’s. Allow them time to recharge. Encourage them to take their holiday entitlement, take time away from their desks at lunch, and switch off at home. It can be quite a task for some people to leave work at the office but this can lead to burnout if you don’t draw the line.
  • You may have access to an Employee Assistance Programme such as the ones that a Health Shield Health Cash Plan provides. These can include online access at your own leisure, or a 24/7 counselling and support helpline.
  • Encourage an open office with colleague support. Your employees may not want to go straight to superior staff, managers, team leaders etc. right away for fear of a lack of support or being segmented.

The management of workplace stress is the difference between success and failure on the job. That’s not a fact to add additional pressure on an individual. Perhaps introduce a marketing programme to promote the use of material that can generate their own self-help if they are feeling embarrassed. Include messages like the initiation of positive relationships, taking time away from desks when they are feeling an increased level of stress, the importance of sleep, regaining and keeping control and how to ensure you don’t take issues too seriously and can see the positive and funny side of all situations.

The important thing to remind your employees, and yourself at times, is that beating workplace stress is not a quick fix.

Exercise is a good form of stress release. Although our statistics show that it is more likely to be women who use this as a way of release, it is a good method of focus and de-stress.

If your employees work shifts they are more likely to have their sleep affected, and in turn this affects their productivity and performance which can lead to stress so providing these outlets to these employees is just as important.

Many cases of workplace stress occur from bad and old habits. Employees need to be made aware of their ability to turn their negative thoughts and overall negativity around. Encourage self-belief and self-appraisal.

You are the role model of your employees. You can influence how they deal with and encourage their own health and wellbeing inside and outside the office environment. Ensure they feel valued and their workload is manageable, offering praise whenever they do good work. A small comment of encouragement can go a long way.

Stress can change a person, not for the good. Ensure your employees don’t suffer. Prolonged stress commonly makes people ill. Over the years it has been found to be linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes and even alopecia. Physical and emotional changes occur during stress, and it’s important to tackle them head on as early as possible. A Health Shield Health Cash Plan can help you do this. Health Shield offers an Employee Assistance Programme with access to online resources and counsellors where required. For more information on obtaining a Health Shield Health Cash Plan to help you  look after your employee’s health and wellbeing, visit our employers page and find the right plan for you and your company.


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