To mark Stress Awareness Month, HRreview has gathered insights from two leading professionals offering insights about how to manage workplace stress.
Over a third (37%) of people are finding life more stressful post-pandemic than they did during the Covid-19 lockdowns, according to a study last year by Reassured.
Supporting employee wellbeing is more important than ever.
Bethan Dacey, Mental Health First Aider at MetLife
“Against a backdrop of increasing uncertainty, it is little wonder so many of us are prioritising our mental wellbeing. Everyone deals with worry, anxiety and stress differently, so it’s important that, across workplaces, employers are creating environments that enable open dialogue. And, importantly, each of us should feel empowered to find those methods that work best for us and that aid our overall wellbeing.
“The hybrid workplace presents both a challenge and an opportunity. Businesses and managers across the UK are working hard to adapt and remind employees of the services available to help them adjust within their employee benefits. For employers, it is worth being mindful of the impact of remote working on employees and the associated challenges of spotting those who are struggling.
“Taking steps as a business to support a healthy and happy workforce in a hybrid setting, can help to boost morale, increase productivity, and ultimately champion workplace wellbeing. And Stress Awareness Month provides employers with the perfect opportunity to establish a conversation and understand how best they can help their teams if they are struggling.”
Four tips for employers helping their employees with stress in the workplace:
- Encourage communication: The pandemic has had a major impact on most people. Whether that’s health related, the passing of a loved one, struggling with working from home, caring for a loved one, home schooling or just living through an unprecedented time of the unknown – the list is endless. While some employees will be open about the struggles they are facing, some may feel hesitant. Encouraging open lines of communication and a paternal stance, employers can go a long way in building long term trust with staff as they realise their employer is there for them in the tough times as well as the good. Talking can also reduce the burden significantly and therefore expedite an individual’s recovery.
- Remember financial wellbeing: One of the ways employers can help to alleviate some concern is by highlighting the financial support available to employees alongside advice on sleep or promoting tools that give practical information on managing daily budgets and savings. As we find ourselves seeing the daily cost of living rise, many are forced to reassess their finances which can quickly elevate financial anxiety. Initiating dialogue around financial wellbeing will assist with breaking down the taboos and providing practical tips to improve financial resilience rather than allowing staff to bury their head in the sand and allowing a difficult financial period to worsen.
- Watch out for employee burnout: Facing into an ever increasing backdrop of global uncertainty, elongated periods of stress can lead to burnout. Being aware of changes to an employee’s productivity is vital, managers need to be vigilant when monitoring how individuals interact or show signs of disengagement. People can hide behind a computer and be unseen very easily. The typical ‘calling in sick’ stats may reduce, but the reality can be very different. Our recent research found that two in five (44%) admit to calling in sick due to feeling exhausted, stressed, depressed, overwhelmed, and unmotivated. Similarly, presenteeism can prove challenging as staff feel unable to take annual leave as it simply increases their workload on their return. You may notice some employees cannot switch off from sending emails and working long hours, even when they are on holiday. Helping employees to plan their annual leave throughout the year, can be a small step with a huge benefit. You may also want to consider encouraging a digital detox and mindfulness techniques to encourage better sleep.
- Support their overall well-being: Traditional benefits – such as retirement, medical, and dental insurance – provide a safety net for employees. But as the world changes and new ways of working accelerate, this is altering what employees want from their employers. Our Re:Me research shows that 71% of employees feel that companies have a social responsibility to their working, including an increased role in their welfare, wellbeing, and overall happiness. The flexibility of hybrid working enables employees to achieve a better work/life balance as they are able to unwind more easily from the comforts of their home and devote more time to activities outside of work rather than commuting. Employers who support employees in and out of the workplace can help ensure both will thrive today and, in the years, to come.
Cheryl Lythgoe, Benenden Health CEO
How to identify if your employees might be suffering from workplace stress
Each employee will handle stress in their own way, but there are some key signs that as an employer you should look out for:
- Working long hours
Employees who are stressed through an unmanageable workload will likely work longer hours than normal. As their manager, you may see emails consistently being sent after hours or on weekends.
- Higher levels of absenteeism
Staff who are over stressed are more likely to be susceptible to suffering from both physical and mental illness. Stressed employees may not be getting a good balance of rest and relaxation which can lead them being more likely to pick up sickness bugs and general infections. Stress can also be a precursor to more serious mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
- Higher staff turnover
Companies that have a high level of workplace stress are more likely to see higher turnover rates than organisations that offer more flexible working. As an employer, you can gain some insight by investigating exactly who is leaving. It might be that one department has a higher turnover than another, or that the leavers are all coming from one particular team.