It was in April but it is arguable that with modern highly stressed workforces, we should always be reminding ourselves of the approaches we need to counter stress among employees.
There will always be times when we need to work outside our normal hours; meaning early mornings, late nights or even weekends. And while technology gives us the ability to work anywhere and at any time, there are downsides to this. The pressure to be ‘always on’ can lead to stress and exhaustion, as well as impacting on staff productivity, loyalty and retention.
Employees have told BUPA they try to downplay illnesses so that they don’t take time off, and their latest research showed that workers would wait an average of 52 days before seeking help for a mental health issue, and less than one in 10 would confide in a colleague or manager.
Peter Stanway, our BackupHR™ legal expert comments:
A certain amount of workplace stress can be positive. It can help employees prepare for challenges, and some even feel they work best under pressure. Evidence shows that for most people work can be beneficial for their physical and mental health. But issues can arise when someone is stressed or overworked for a prolonged period.
When someone isn’t coping with stress you might notice they are constantly worried, lack confidence or feel emotional, and they might even tell you about physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea and tiredness. This may be due to them not having a healthy work-life balance, so they are not able to manage work stress.
When it comes to wellbeing at work, the importance of safeguarding mental health has become much more understood over the past few years. Two thirds of business leaders now report that mental health has become a boardroom priority. Good employers are putting measures into place to help protect employee mental health, reduce stress and tackle the ‘always on’ modern working culture. Smart employers know that organisations are only as strong as their people and that the experiences, wellbeing and motivation of each worker are fundamental to how the organisation performs as a whole.
Figures from the data organisation NHS Digital reveal the scale of fit notes being issued by GPs in England. The number of notes for “neurotic and stress-related disorders” rose from just over 576,000 in the 2016-17 financial year to nearly 620,000 in 2017-18.
- Draft a common-sense Stress at Work Policy – include it in your Health & Safety Policy and publicise it.
- Implement the HSE’s Management Standards – their guidance on Work-Related Stress should be required reading for all Managers.
- Lead from the front – employees feel empowered to work regular hours and take breaks if they see senior leaders displaying the same behaviour.
- Set boundaries – creating time limits for when employees can respond to and send emails helps to encourage breaks both from work and technology. This prevents excessive working hours, helps them ‘switch off’ and get the downtime they need.
- Make goals achievable – switching off from technology completely is virtually impossible. Instead, encourage colleagues to set realistic goals for cutting back on their technology use, which they’re more likely to stick to.
- Start the conversation – if you see a colleague working all hours, displaying signs of stress, or is always ‘switched on’, initiate a conversation about how they’re feeling, and if they need support with their workload or health advice.
- Promote wellbeing for all staff – prevention is better than cure, so encourage people to be open and react appropriately.
- Be supportive – staff who are experiencing mental health problems need to know that they are not alone and their illness will not be career limiting.
- Provide training – improve awareness on the potential dangers of prolonged occupational stress.
The guidance provided in this article is just that – guidance. Before taking any action make sure that you know what you are doing, or call us for a free initial chat on 01480 677980.