Work-related pressure is certainly nothing new. We’ve all experienced it. In many cases, stress-related to looming work deadlines is a temporary pressure but excessive and prolonged stress is incredibly hard to deal with and can result in ill health. It’s important for everyone to look after their mental wellbeing in the workplace.
Although work stress can sometimes act as an effective motivational tool, unrelenting workplace pressure can often leave us feeling anxious, tired, and emotionally drained. This kind of chronic stress often results in all manner of physical and behavioural side effects, impacting both our personal lives and overall mental wellbeing in the workplace. This can have a detrimental effect on our work performance.
As an employer, you have an obligation to minimise stressful work factors and ensure your workers’ wellbeing is managed through a joined-up programme of support.
For more understanding of employee mental health, our Mental health and Me training can help employees get to grips with their mental health and how to improve it.
Stress and mental wellbeing in the workplace
Unfortunately, stress has become all too familiar to UK workers. The latest HSE stats show that 914,000 workers are suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety, and 17 million working days were lost, which equates to an average of 18.6 days lost per case. The current rate is higher than the 2018-2019 pre-coronavirus levels.
In 2021/22 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill health cases and 55% of all working days lost due to work-related ill health.
Without question, stress levels are on the rise and the pressures of the modern workplace are by far the biggest contributors. From an employer’s point of view, these high absenteeism rates will typically lead to reduced productivity and poor worker performance. It’s vital, therefore, that employers know the best ways to support their employees.
The most common causes of work-related stress
The workplace will always present employees with a level of pressure. However, it’s the employers’ responsibility to recognise and provide support strategies that help managing stress and mental wellbeing in the workplace. These can either be active or reactive solutions or both.
According to the HSE, the main work factors associated with causing work-related stress, depression or anxiety were workload pressures, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support.
It’s important to note that different people will react to stress in very different ways, and you might find that other factors are causing your employees particularly high levels of stress. Some less common factors could include work performance, colleague behaviour and management style. Therefore, developing a supportive work environment is so important.
To help combat stress caused by heavy workloads, employers and managers need to help their employees remain organised and ensure they’re comfortable in prioritising tasks. This includes offering the tools, knowledge and communication required to complete their work efficiently.
Top tips for improving mental wellbeing in the workplace
1. Provide stress awareness training
By ensuring managers and employees are given the proper training, employers can increase awareness of the causes, signs and risks of work-related stress. A stress awareness course will help managers and employees recognise the difference between pressure and stress, feel confident to discuss it in an open way and develop effective coping strategies. It could also create a much more supportive working environment and culture.
2. Encourage physical activity
Releasing endorphins, increasing energy and boosting confidence, maintaining an active lifestyle has always been effective stress-buster. To improve mental wellbeing in the workplace, employers can encourage workers to incorporate more exercise into their average working day by offering on-site fitness classes, gym membership discounts or active days out of the office.
3. Setting boundaries
Research suggests that switching off after work is the most popular method of reducing stress and increasing mental wellbeing. Instead of bringing their work home with them, employees should use their time out of the office to relax. Employers need to set clear boundaries with their staff to provide a stronger work-life balance and prevent work overload.
4. Increase organisation
Since so many people feel stressed by heavy workloads and tight deadlines, it’s important for employees to stay organised. When they have access to effective scheduling tools and the support they need to deal with heavy workloads, employees will naturally feel much more confident about getting everything done on time.
5. Tackle sleep deprivation
65% of people who suffer from stress also struggle with sleep loss. Employers need to make sure they’re highlighting the impact of sleep deprivation, while also encouraging rest, relaxation and regular breaks. A lack of sleep will typically lead to irritability, short tempers and increased stress. This can be limited by promoting the rejuvenating effects of a healthy sleep pattern that will help employees better manage stressful situations.
6. Provide support
At times, it’s just a simple matter of opening up to someone. Employees can lift a weight from their shoulders by talking to a colleague or discussing issues with their manager. This is why a friendly and supportive working environment can be so important. Instead of feeling completely overwhelmed, employees require support if they’re ever going to conquer stress once and for all.
The benefits of a stress awareness course
Although employers should certainly take steps to create a healthier work-life balance and encourage more active employee lifestyles, mental wellbeing and stress awareness courses are undoubtedly one of the most effective methods of increasing mental wellbeing in the workplace.
Our courses provide managers and employees with a deep understanding of the causes, signs and dangers of work-related stress, while also highlighting the differences between stress and pressure. By ensuring managers have the tools to help employees recognise the symptoms of stress both in themselves and others, you can create a more supportive and considerate working culture.
The Stress Awareness for Managers course ensures that managers are fully aware of their responsibilities and have a better understanding of managing and improving wellbeing in the workplace and the ability to support their teams. After completing our Stress Awareness for Employees course, workers will come away with the knowledge they need to deal with pressure and stress effectively and be able to discuss any issues with their manager.
To learn more about handling mental wellbeing or to ask about one of our IOSH approved health and safety courses, contact a member of our dedicated team today!
If you are worried about isolation issues affecting employee mental health through homeworking, look at our training course on Homeworker Awareness to understand the importance of reporting issues and hazards at home. Risk assessments are required by law, as an employer.