On average, a person will spend a third of their life at work, or 3,507 days over their lifetime. And when we’re spending so many precious hours working, it’s crucial that we’re doing so in a way that is, at the very least, manageable but hopefully enjoyable and satisfying too.
Unfortunately, over the past year, work-related stress has become more prominent and is on the rise. According to a report by Headspace, work stress has become one of the top three concerns of 2021 with over half (54 per cent) of respondents reporting being extremely stressed or stressed. The greatest source of stress for most employees was money, followed closely by current levels of work/life balance. Work pressures, health and relationships with others were also cited. 1 in 14 people said they feel stressed every single day.
So, as an employer, how can you help ease the stresses of your employees and create a more harmonious working environment?
Prepare a personal prevention plan
It is common for people to address stress once it has happened instead of looking at ways of preventing it. Indeed, last year, 1 in 5 UK workers felt unable to manage the pressure and stress at work and succumbed to burnout.
Burnout is a severe level of stress which can occur if a person is in a state of exhaustion due to long-term strain. This can present as physical symptoms, such as fatigue, but it can also create emotional symptoms like depression and anxiety.
But, of course, everyone’s resilience to stress is different. Whether through genetics, lived experience or a bit of both, what causes one person to reach a state of stress is as unique to them as their own fingerprint. As is the best way to cope with stress, what might help ease stressful situations for one person won’t be right for the next.
Employers must take the time to sit down with employees and devise a personal prevention plan which explores personal triggers as well as mechanisms to help them decrease levels of stress, such as plotting in regular holidays or turning an out of office on at 5pm to encourage them to truly switch off at the end of the day.
Give safe spaces to discuss stress
Half of UK employees feel uncomfortable with talking about mental health in the workplace, with many reporting that they worry it would harm their career. It’s crucial that as an employer, you create forums whereby opinions and experiences can be shared without judgement.
Anonymous feedback forms are a brilliant place to start as they give a place for employees to be open and honest without the worry of being ‘recognised’. However, it is crucial that as an employer, you work hard to create a culture based on understanding and inclusivity, not one of fear. When this is established and ingrained, groups talks or regular, mental health specific, one-to-ones are also a brilliant way to garner how people are feeling.
Lead by example
One thing that can be noted when looking into research about workplace stress is that there is very little in the way of discussion and research into employer mental health. However, as one study has shown, more C-Suite Executives have experience mental health issues compared to their employees, and many CEOs are struggling with continuous stress and fatigue. But, due to the perceived pressures of ‘setting a positive example’, very few leaders talk openly about their struggles. Of course, this simply perpetuates the problem, it’s time to break down those barriers.
As a leader, make sure that you are also caring for yourself. Be aware of your own triggers, work hard to ease stress in ways that suit you and don’t be afraid to be open and honest with your colleagues about how you are feeling. This will undoubtedly create a ripple effect and very quickly your employees will follow suit, creating a much happier, healthier workplace.