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Stress Awareness in the Workplace

A stressed man at work
Stress Awareness in the Workplace

Stress Awareness Month has been held annually since April 1992, bringing awareness to the epidemic of stress as "74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope." this has been especially significant this year due to the pandemic and the isolation it has created for many.

As individuals and decision-makers in the workplace, we can benefit from understanding stress, how it occurs, how we can address it and how to prevent it. As well as how it relates to mental health and wellbeing.

Good "mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is defined as a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can make a contribution to her or his community." - Mind

Mental wellbeing can be linked to one of these influences which impact our day to day lives.

  • Quality/Enjoyment of life
  • Ability to deal with and overcome physical and mental setbacks
  • Confidence to set/fulfil aspirational goals and achievements
  • Courage to develop, maintain and excel in interpersonal relationships

These influences are common internally and externally from the workplace, the same as the effects affecting us inside and outside the workplace.

How can you improve workplace mental wellbeing?

The first significant step in improving mental wellbeing at the workplace is understanding what it is; you can check if managers and decision-makers are trained and knowledgeable in mental wellbeing and the challenges their staff they manage may face.

Once aware of the causes of work-related stress and poor mental wellbeing, you'll be able to identify possible pain sources and apply a quick, immediate solution as well as prevent them in the future.

Encourage those in the workplace to talk about mental wellbeing. Hiding away from it doesn't help but encourage staff to address mental wellbeing problems and help solve those for others. Those who do not want to contribute, may find helpful advice or encourage them to contribute to the conversation later.

Promote in-house physical and emotional practices, health challenges such as; the race to a certain amount of steps over a month or eat a rainbow challenge, are examples of how challenges can improve and promote better mental wellbeing in the workplace.

Being vocal about available mental wellbeing resources and the opportunity to access them anonymously is a significant move. Many of those who have poor mental wellbeing live with it in silence, so informing your workplace of public resources available free of charge and accessed anonymously is of enormous benefit and gain for those suffering from poor mental wellbeing.

What are the causes of mental stress in the workplace?

Work is excellent for some. The structure and the social environment often experienced in workplaces are perfect for employees to participate in; however, once pressure and demands increase and overwhelm your employees, they can begin to experience work-related stress.

Causes:

  • An employee doesn't possess the skills and demands of the job that are being requested.
  • Employers’ unclear identification of tasks, job role, expectations
  • Lack of flexibility over the employee to their role
  • Employee, colleague and manager relationships
  • Persistent pressure to meet deadlines
  • Unrealistic workload and demands

Are you experiencing or witnessing these mental health-related stresses within your workplace?

How can you tell if someone is affected by workplace stress?

The symptoms of workplace stress are visible mentally and physically; naturally, the mental symptoms are harder to identify, but the physical stresses are just as complex due to being potentially subtle.

Mental Symptoms:

  • Mood swings
  • Sense and feeling of being overwhelmed
  • Irritable or increased aggravation
  • Emotional sensitivity
  • Anxious or dreading workplace common scenarios at work
  • Feeling depressed
  • Indecisiveness and unable to act decisively
  • Persistently disappointed with yourself and your achievements at work
  • Unmotivated and committed to your job
  • Feeling unconfident within the workplace
  • Struggling to concentrate on tasks
  • Unable to manage workload

Physical Symptoms:

  • Chest pains or tightness in the chest
  • Increase in weight or loss in weight
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach-ache or general pains
  • Feeling sick
  • Change in sex drive

As mentioned previously, these are hard to identify from an employer’s perspective, but the more you understand and talk about it, the more other people will learn to recognise them too.

Behavioural symptoms may be easier to spot as these include:

  • Eating more than usual
  • Trouble sleeping (increased tiredness)
  • Isolating from others
  • New increase consumption of alcohol or smoking to relax

The majority of these symptoms are not visually easily recognisable but being aware of the symptoms is a step in the right direction. It may help you identify them and prompt you to notice if an employee may be suffering.

It's an excellent reminder to treat a friend or colleague sensitively around this issue. Simply letting them know you're happy to listen can be enough.

What are some solutions to reduce workplace stress?

Encourage workplace wellness via policy change and wellness investment; its investment return is more happy and productive employees who give tasks increased focus and attention.

Examples include:

  • Encouraging walks during lunch break
  • Subsidising gym memberships
  • Inviting wellness activities to the office; group yoga class, service dogs to reduce stress and anxiety
  • Offer healthy snacks

Employees/workers feel more valued if the employer shows they are cared for by bringing in the activities above; you reflect a sign of care for your employees.

Workplace Layout

The workplace environment is also a factor of mental wellbeing; improving a better workplace environment can impact the workforce stress and enhance employees' wellbeing. Colour scheme, plants, the flow of socialisation/interaction workplace layout and breakout areas can all add a sense of relaxation and mental care.

External Workplace Activities

External social activities, taking employees out of the workplace, and participating in corporate activity can boost better wellbeing and reduce workplace stresses. It can also increase your workforce teams' overall chemistry leading to better productivity and collaboration on operation san projects.

Samaritans

The Samaritans charity offer support for companies looking to improve their workplace mental wellbeing. "We support workplaces with a range of programmes including our Wellbeing in the Workplace e-learning tool and our in-house and open workplace training courses." -Samaritans.

Ways To Reduce Stress

  • Improve your sleep
  • Listen to music
  • When overwhelmed, say "no" #doless
  • Build a structured routine with planned organisation
  • Exercise can relieve stress and take your mind away from the issues
  • Hobbies can help create a distraction from your stress pains
  • Avoid stimulants that keep you wired and alert
  • Speak to someone! (check our resources below)

Utilising these suggestions can lead to a positive impact within the workplace.

Resources to Help

Mind for better mental health 

Mind is a UK based mental health charity that provides free, confidential support to those suffering from poor mental health or wellbeing.

"We won't give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets support and respect." - Mind

 

Samaritans

Samaritans are a UK based mental health charity providing free mental health advice and support. "Every seven seconds, we respond to a call for help. No judgement. No pressure. We're here for anyone who needs someone."- Samaritans.

 

The Stress Management Society

A non-profit organisation helping individuals and workplaces understand stress, allowing them to develop ways to reduce stress individually and commercially.

Free E-book on how to manage, spot and resolve/reduce stress.

About the author

Kier Sheehan

Kier loves an adventure, whether that’s through trying new and exotic food or cooking up a social media strategy. With a love of communications and a positive approach to any task, when he’s not working Kier can be found teaching skiing or travelling the world.