It’s National Stress Awareness Day on 1st November this year, launched with the important aims of achieving publicity about stress and stress prevention, and promoting the importance of wellbeing for individuals and organisations.
Combating stress is now more of a priority than ever for employers, as it is a major contributor to mental health issues and can even make people physically unwell. According to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), in 2015/16 over 480,000 people in the UK reported that work-related stress was making them ill. This amounts to nearly 40% of all work-related illness.
Employers can take action to prevent the causes of stress and create a culture where it is ok to speak up when anyone starts to feel stressed.
The causes of stress
The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) identifies six main causes of stress at work. They are:
The demands made on employees
The amount of control over work
The level of support from managers
The quality of workplace relationships
How an employee’s role fits into the organisation
How well change is managed
Employers have a legal duty of care to look after the health, safety and welfare of their employees. They should conduct risk assessments for work-related stress and take action to prevent staff from experiencing a stress-related illness. This can include:
Clear channels of communication between employees and managers will reduce stress by encouraging employees to discuss any problems they may be having. Being open to discussions will show that a manager supports their workforce. Two-way communication will also take the uncertainly away from change.
Not being chained to a desk will help employees’ wellbeing. Having somewhere in the workplace that’s quiet allows employees to recharge and feel refreshed from short but relatively frequent breaks. Getting up from the computer will also relieve back pain, eye strain and repetitive injuries. Employees should also be encouraged to use their full holiday allocation.
Allowing flexible working can give employees more control over when and how they work, as well as reducing commute times and giving them a better work/life balance. Employees should be given the opportunity to help design their jobs too, so they’re consulted when coming up with the processes for how to perform their role.
Using a Performance Improvement Plan helps with communication between employers and employees. They can be kept informed of their performance progress, and benefit from being given regular targets. The targets will also show them where they fit in with the overall aims of the organisation.
Encouraging friendships at work will boost morale and team spirit. Employers of course cannot force people to get on, but organising social events both in and outside of work should help.