Stress Awareness Month: Tips For Tackling Workplace Stress
With workplace stress increasing, there’s never been a more urgent need to tackle stress within your own workforce. And the statistics back this up:
- 17 million working days are currently lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in the UK
- 33% of staff say that high levels of stress impacts their productivity
- 19% of UK workers claim that their employer has put no measures in place to relieve work stress
While small amounts of stress can help keep us alert, motivated and more efficient, constant and unhealthy amounts of workplace stress can lead to employee upset, disengagement and burnout.
Subsequently, it’s important for staff, managers and employers to be more open to discussions about stress and identify ways of alleviating it. In fact, this is why initiatives such as the fast approaching and increasingly popular ‘Stress Awareness Month’ were originally introduced.
In this latest blog we’ll talk more about Stress Awareness Month, the importance of opening up more communication channels with staff including surveys and offer some tips for tackling stress in the workplace.
Why Stress Awareness Month matters
Given how important employees are to an organisation, it’s not too hard to appreciate just how damaging unchecked levels of stress can be to its future success.
Consequently, Stress Awareness Month, can provide a timely reminder about this and encourage businesses to check in with their employees and try to devise ways of improving their mental health. And it’s worth it too, as organisations that can develop a culture with greater focus on staff wellbeing and happiness tend to experience higher levels of staff engagement and productivity, which also improves their long-term success. So, it’s a win-win situation for both employees and employers.
Why open communication channels are crucial
Once you’ve taken the decision to try and reduce stress and promote greater levels of wellbeing and happiness among your employees, you need to think about how you will go about this.
However, before you do anything else you need to identify the levels of stress that currently exist in your workplace and what people are getting most stressed about. But you’ll only be able to achieve that if you can open up effective communications channels with your staff.
From email, SMS and instant messaging apps to videoconferencing and face to face chats. There’s a lot of methods and tools you can use to engage and check in with your staff.
Using surveys to gain valuable feedback
However, by far the most effective in terms of its ability to provide a safe and anonymous way for staff to feedback is the employee survey. Anonymous feedback is usually more valuable to a business too, as staff feel much safer to report how they are really feeling, giving you a much more honest viewpoint of what’s going on in your business what you need to improve.
While there are potentially many different employee survey types you could issue to your workforce, probably the most valuable for stress awareness would be an Employee Wellbeing Survey. Although this survey type looks to cover all areas of employee wellbeing, from physical and social to mental and emotional, it can be written in a way that provides greater emphasis towards mental and emotional issues.
In terms of identifying workplace stress levels and how well your staff feel supported by you in managing this, you could get a lot of insight by asking them the following questions:
Feelings about job role and work life balance
- How often do you feel stressed or overwhelmed at work?
- Do you feel like you have a good work life balance here?
- What are your energy levels like after a day at work?
- Have your sleeping habits changed since you started work here?
- Has your appetite changed since you started working here?
- What makes you unhappy at work?
- What do you struggle with the most at work?
- What worries you the most when at work?
Questions to identify how supported staff feel at work
- Do you feel supported if you feel unhappy at work?
- Who would you turn to if you felt your mental health was declining whilst at work?
- Do you feel like we do enough to support your mental health at work as an employee?
- Is there a way for you to manage your stress effectively whilst at work?
Questions to identify how the company could better support employees
- What could we do to improve your work life balance?
- Do you feel like you have the necessary tools to do your job properly?
- Is there anything we can do to make you feel more confident and stable in your role here?
- Is there anything we can do as a company to promote better mental health for our employees?
- What does a supportive manager look like to you as an employee?
- Can you outline a time when you felt really supported at work how can we ensure this happens all the time?
Questions to identify who or what can positively impact employee’s mental health
- For you as an employee, what would a perfect day look like?
- What makes you feel excited as an employee?
- Who do you think has the most positive influence here and why?
- What do you think we can all learn from this person?
- What makes you feel happy at work?
- Who makes you feel like a valued employee and why?
- Who do you find the most inspiring at work?
- What are you most grateful for at work?
Once you’ve gathered your insight, analysed it and started acting on it, you could then start bringing in smaller surveys such as a pulse survey, to regularly check in and monitor the health and wellbeing of your staff, so you can deal quicker with any issues as they arise.
Tips for tackling workplace stress
While surveys are the best way of measuring stress levels in your business and identifying what most worries your staff, it can be handy to have a raft of initiatives that you can introduce alongside regular feedback surveys to help reduce your workplace stress.
Here are some ideas you might want to consider:
Support groups and mental health first aiders
Sometimes it can be difficult to fully understand the needs of your staff, which is when it can be valuable to get some eyes and ears on the inside of your business.
Besides running regular surveys to check up on how people are feeling, you might want to think about getting some support groups up and running or even training some of your employees in mental health first aid. In addition, some employers may offer stress management resources which could include online resources, or external counselling if needed.
Ultimately, if you can get a better feel for how your staff are feeling and offer them some long-term resources that they can turn to, you should start to see a positive difference in the workplace.
Help staff prioritise their workloads
It might sound simple, but helping your employees to prioritise their workloads, rather than just giving them a long list of tasks to action can make a big difference to their stress levels.
Depending on the nature of their work, there are several ways you could help them out:
Firstly, offer realistic deadlines for specific tasks. If you ask too much from your employees it can lead to burnout long-term, and harm the quality of their work.
Secondly, help them break down tasks into a table with timelines for when they will be completed. There are lots of methods and software tools available these days to do this and help see how your priorities fit in with the rest of your team.
Ensure staff use up all their annual leave allowance
Everyone needs time to rest, relax and recharge. And time spent away from work with the people we love is very important for our mental health.
Yet, despite the benefits of annual leave, many people don’t use their full allowance. Whether they feel they’re too busy to take leave or guilty about giving extra work to their colleagues. Whatever their reasoning it’s important as part of managing their mental health, that you ensure all staff use up their annual leave entitlement.
Build a culture that’s focused on employee well-being
While culture-building is included in most employer branding strategies and is critical to giving those organisations a distinct identity in the job market, what is often left out is the importance of good mental health and wellbeing and any initiatives that a company runs to help maintain this.
Whether it's company culture tools such as employee feedback surveys or striving to deliver great employee experiences, to engagement drivers and benefits administration. Whatever tools they use, these can be used to help employees manage their workplace stress and make their organisation a more attractive place to work.
Provide regular and timely boosts to workforce morale
Whether it’s winning a major new customer or recognising an outstanding achievement from an employee or team. Whatever it is that you want to celebrate in your organisation, frequently recognising and communicating a range of achievements can significantly increase workplace pride and engagement among your staff, while helping to alleviate stress.
Stress management requires long-term planning
Remember any initiatives you come up with need be implemented for the long-term, and not just adhered to for Stress Awareness Month and then given up. The reality is that staff need ongoing monitoring if their stress levels and mental health are to remain in a healthy zone.
Some short-term initiatives can help, but they may not be that effective if your staff are already tired or unwilling to co-operate. So, you need to keep at working on stress management, with a longer-term plan in mind If you’re to engage everyone and really start making a positive difference to reducing stress levels in your organisation.