Mitigating Workplace Stress
Thursday, March 28, 2013, 12:38 PM
Stress is the singularly biggest reason for sickness absence in the workplace. It can affect people regardless of age, gender or job, be they manual laborers or high-powered directors.
As any employer will be aware, sickness absence doesn't just cost a business financially, it can have a knock-on effect that impacts morale, productivity and profits. That's why it's important for managers to take steps to mitigate stress in the workplace, before issues can escalate. Fortunately, there are many measures that can assist in this endeavour, some of which are detailed below:
One of the best ways to establish whether a direct report is under additional pressure is simply to talk to them. They might be reluctant to mention their concerns ordinarily, but in a one-to-one situation, they may feel more comfortable in opening up. Therefore, regular catch-ups are essential. Similarly, if changes are taking place within the organisation, ensure that your team is updated at every opportunity; not knowing and the resultant speculation can cause unnecessary anxiety.
Many managers are still fearful of anything that constitutes a mental health issue and are thus reluctant to broach it. Similarly, individuals can feel ashamed or embarrassed, aware that there is still a stigma unnecessarily associated with their condition. Therefore, education is key. Training for managers will help them understand that mental health issues need to be discussed, will help them spot symptoms and give them the confidence to deal with any problems. Education can also help managers to create an open culture in which employees might feel more comfortable in bringing up any worries.
Many companies, as one of their staff benefits, provide an employee assistance helpline, through which employees can speak to qualified experts confidentially. Others may provide private medical insurance which covers anxiety counseling. It's worth communicating these benefits to employees so that they know they can obtain guidance free of charge and in a timely manner.
At a time when job security is low, many employees feel they have to put in all hours to prove their worth. If they are not physically in the office, thousands of others work late into the night, checking emails on their smartphones or tablets. Presenteeism, however, is not something that should be encouraged. Employees all need regular breaks and to rest sufficiently. Manager, therefore, should prompt them to switch off and stop working, to improve well-being. The introduction of other initiatives, such as healthier foods in the canteen, walking clubs and other schemes that emphasize health could help reduce stress.
Allowing employees to choose their hours or work location can dramatically cut anxiety levels. Not having to endure a stressful commute, nor have to pay out so much in fares or fuel is a big relief. Working at home can mean that some individuals can better balance their caring responsibilities, perhaps working later into the evening. Such measures also foster loyalty and retention, while providing great PR for the business.
We all get a little stressed from time to time, but knowing how to recognize the symptoms and address them early can certainly save much anxiety in the long run.