22 April

How to manage stress in the workplace

Stress isn't just an inconvenience; it's a significant contributor to long-term absences, decreased productivity, and overall diminished employee wellbeing. 

To mark Stress Awareness Month, we asked This is Me collaborators to share why its imperative for businesses to reflect on the state of workplace stress and its implications. 

Tilly Lewis, Senior Marketing Manager, BoxClever Consulting

As an individual, I manage stress through a combination of mindfulness practices, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. In my workplace, we have a supportive environment that values employee wellbeing. Boxclever provides resources such as full access to Vitality, lunch and learn workshops, regular team socials, and flexible work arrangements. Our wellbeing is an absolute priority.

Laura Sartin, Head of Health Safety & Wellbeing UK, Aon

The most important thing to me is to make time to move around and be physically active during the day. Nature has become very important to me as I have learnt that being outside surrounded by natural things is soothing and very quickly restores my energy levels. At Aon, we focus on avoiding or reducing the root cause of stress, such as workload and change, rather than only offering support which often comes too late. We regularly share information on the Viva Engage platform to remind colleagues how to prioritize their health while working.

Chris Mack, Programme Manager, Community Business

For me, a lot of the adverse effects of stress are physical rather than emotional, therefore I focus my attention on how I’m looking after my body. Flexibility has worked well with supporting employees with managing stress at Community Business. By providing flexibility, whether it’s location or hours, people are able to prioritize their stress management behaviours when needed.

Nicholas Bunney, Targeted Surveillance Officer, TP ICAP

For me, the biggest long-term stress reducer is having a flexible philosophy where you don’t need to control everything. TP ICAP's Sport and Well-being network organizes regular activities for employees to sign up to, encouraging people to take a break and interact with other members of staff. Personally, I also have a manager who regularly checks in, reminds me to take breaks, and is open to conversations about stress and mental health – we need more managers like that!

Understanding the Impact of Stress

Statistics paint a stark picture of the prevalence and cost of workplace stress. According to a YouGov poll, one in five workers needed to take time off due to poor mental health caused by pressure or stress in the past year (2023) and nine out of ten UK adults experienced high or extreme stress. Moreover, in a Statistica report (2020) 79% of respondents cited work-related stress as the most common cause of stress, and in the UK alone, a staggering 13.7 million working days are lost each year due to stress-related issues, amounting to a hefty £28.3 billion annually (NICE).

Recent data from Champion Health further underscores the escalating nature of this problem, with a 14% increase in overall stress levels since 2022. It's evident that the status quo is unsustainable, demanding immediate attention and proactive measures from businesses.

Identifying Causes and Solutions of Stress

The latest Workplace Wellbeing Report by Champion Health (2024) identified the leading causes of workplace stress as workload, lack of control, lack of support, and interpersonal dynamics. And according to a report by Mental Health UK (2023), it appears that inadequate working relationships and processes might be contributing to burnout among employees. The study found that over a third of working adults (35%) feel uncomfortable informing their line managers or senior leaders about high or extreme levels of pressure and stress at work. Additionally, nearly one in three respondents (31%) reported experiencing stress in the past year due to being bullied or intimidated by their colleagues.

However, it's crucial to recognise that each workplace may have unique stressors, making open communication paramount. By fostering a psychologically safe environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their concerns, organisations can pinpoint and address specific stress triggers.

Actionable Tips for Organisations

Create Psychologically Safe Workplaces: According to Mental Health UK’s (2023) research, when it comes to what best helps alleviate stress and prevent burnout at work, four in ten said having a supportive line manager (43%) or supportive colleagues and peers (42%). By encouraging open dialogue around mental health through initiatives like This is Me Storytelling employees feel validated and supported, reducing the stigma surrounding mental health at work.

Conduct Stress Risk Assessments: Following recommendations from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), businesses should implement stress risk assessments. These assessments, coupled with training and support for managers, empower leaders to proactively manage workplace stress.

Empower Wellbeing Champions: Mental Health UK’s (2023) research also suggests professional support for mental health such as Employee Assistance Programmes or coaching and organisations offering staff training around mental health at work can be effective at reducing workplace stress. Organisations can designate individuals within teams as Wellbeing Ambassadors to spearhead initiatives and gather feedback from colleagues. This grassroots approach ensures that employee voices are heard and that interventions are tailored to their needs. Wellbeing in the Workplace is a free-to-access workplace training tool that can support this.

For further information about creating psychologically safe workplaces, register for the free This is Me Hub here 

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