It’s likely that Stress Awareness Day on 1st November passed many of us by as we ordered our morning coffee or rushed about our daily lives. It’s no surprise, the reality is that more of us are suffering from stress and feeling under pressure than ever before and the ripples spread far and wide.
A third of us are unhappy with our work-life balance, and with mobile devices increasingly blurring the line between employment and family life it’s no wonder we’re all so stressed! What’s worse, this figure is on the rise. It’s a vicious circle where the more time we spend in contact with work, the more we think about it and the more negative the impact it has on our lives.
HSE published the latest figures on 1st November – these show that out of 31.2 million working days lost due to work-related illness, 12.5 were due to work-related stress, anxiety or depression. Health and Safety at work regulations 1999 mean employers have a duty to ‘assess the risk of stress related ill health arising from work activities’ and ‘take measures to control that risk’ (1974 Health Act). So why isn’t more being done?
The law protects us to some extent but talking about mental health in the workplace remains somewhat of a taboo; there is a culture of silence and a reluctance to make it known within the workplace for fear of negative consequences. The BITC/YouGov Mental Health at Work Report 2017 revealed that in 15% of cases where a mental health issue had been disclosed to a line manager, the employee became subject to disciplinary procedures, dismissal or demotion.
It’s not that managers don’t care. The same survey showed that 91% of managers were aware that what they do directly affects the wellbeing of their staff. However, less than a quarter of them had undergone any training in mental health issues and felt underequipped to prevent or deal with any issues should they arise.
Business needs to wake up to what is really happening here and find a way to address the imbalance. Talking about stress in the workplace and offering mental health training and support for employees is GOOD for business. A happy employee is a productive one: workers whose mental health is taken seriously in the workplace and who enjoy a supportive and open environment are much more productive. This can result in up to £4 in improved efficiency and productivity for every £1 spent on mental health care, according to the Health and Safety Executive. That’s a return on investment that no company can afford to ignore.
As with any health issue, the ideal scenario is not to get ill in the first place; mental health is no different. Managers can put in place simple steps to cultivate support, making employees and their wellbeing central to the business and its growth. One simple change can have a positive impact, improving staff retention, reducing sickness and ensuring a productive and motivated workforce.
These Top 10 tips are not exhaustive but provide the root of simple and cost-effective systems for stress prevention and a happy and productive team in the workplace. That will help make sure every day is a ‘stress awareness day’.
- Undertake a stress risk assessment to identify potential causes of stress in the workplace and eliminate or reduce the risk they present. Useful information can be found on the HSE website. If you need any help or advice in undertaking a stress risk assessment contact Cordell Health..
- Build emotional resilience, encourage staff to go home at a reasonable time and make sure they take their holidays. Discourage emailing outside office hours.
- Give honest objective feedback and help employees learn from their mistakes
- Recognise, reward and appreciate achievements
- Build good support systems in the workplace where working practices and problems are shared. Make sure workloads and priorities are agreed and maintained.
- Encourage healthy eating and regular physical activity. Provide fresh fruit and water.
- Organise regular out-of-work activities in which the whole team can take part. This might include volunteering or supporting a local charity.
- Create a pleasant work environment, with plenty of natural light and good ventilation as well are shared common spaces.
- Help employees understand and accept that there are some things they cannot change. Anxiety often arises from trying to change things beyond our control and acceptance is key to overcoming this.
- Encourage employees to identify areas they find difficult and support them in devising and implementing a plan to tackle these areas.
(Mental Health at Work Report. YouGov 2017)
How do YOU feel about stress in your workplace. What systems are in place to support you or your team?