April is Stress Awareness Month and one place that can be a cause of stress is the workplace. In fact, it’s not just the workplace that can be at fault, the commute to work and the amount of work many of us take home at the end of the day, can also add to workplace stress.
The impact of workplace stress should not be underestimated, it accounts for 50-60% of lost working days according to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, resulting in poor performance, difficulties retaining staff, and an increased risk of accident and injury.
For those employees affected it can have serious implications for their health and wellbeing, causing physical, social and mental health issues impacting on their personal life, as well as their ability to work.
Can workplace stress be good?
Of course, some of us say that we thrive in stressful situations, and there are many industries and careers where stress is seen as a positive factor. As we near a deadline the added pressure and stress may make us more focussed and creative, a high-octane stressful environment can be motivating and increase our productivity. The trick may be to recognise this stress and use it, rather than seeing it as a debilitating negative element of our working lives.
That’s not to say that sustained levels of stress are a good thing, or stress created by unrealistic demands, toxic work environments, job insecurity etc., but sometimes stress can be a positive if we understand and control it.
So, Stress Awareness Month is very apt because it should help us to recognise good and bad stress, and find ways to cope with both.
How to cope with workplace stress
Here are easy ways to reduce and militate against workplace stress, for both employees and employers:
1. Identify the causes of stress in the workplace or your working life: Many of us experience stress but blame it on the wrong thing. Therefore, it’s really important to get to the bottom of the causes of stress so they can be dealt with in a healthy way. Sometimes it might be a question of changing working patterns or processes that lessen the impact of stress on individuals. Or you may find that an aspect of your job is stressful and putting it in perspective with all the positives in your job, helps you manage the stress it creates.
2. Be supportive of each other: If you work in a stressful industry it’s vital to create a supportive environment for everyone on the team. Similarly, if a particular employee is prone to stress they’ll cope a lot better if they have the support of their managers and colleagues. The opportunity to de-stress together is a powerful way to do this, whether that’s drinks after work on completion of a stressful project, or away days to take stock at intervals throughout the year. Although you may think your employees have ample opportunity to de-stress in their own time, sharing the experience with others who understand the stress they’re under can be very effective.
3. Promote a healthy workplace: People in good physical shape handle stress better than those in poorer health and so encouraging a healthy workplace is a good step towards this. Exercise also releases endorphins that triggers positivity, and therefore helps to control the feeling of being stressed. One way you can help employees improve their fitness and wellbeing is to introduce Bikes For Staff schemes or Gym Memberships, if your current employer doesn’t offer such a scheme why not suggest it to them?
As a Stress Awareness exercise why not share this article with colleagues and others in your network, and help them manage workplace stress too?
By Richard Ellis, Marketing Director, Connected Benefits