Life can be a stressful business and business can cause a stressful life. With World Mental Health Awareness Day coming up on October 10th, we thought this would be a good time to tackle stress and mental health at work: causes, ways to tackle it as an employer/employee and lots of resources to assist you along the way.
Whilst mental health awareness has greatly increased over the years with a more open attitude and less judgement, one thing which is still rather swept under the carpet is the impact of these issues within the workplace. Yet with half of all employees suffering from poor mental health and mental health related absences estimated at £26bn annually, it’s undeniable that the emotional needs of workers are of utmost importance. Whether you manage a team or work alone, it’s worth bearing the following causes of stress in mind in order to keep an eye on potential issues which may arise. Employees should:
- Be able to cope with the demands of the job (DEMANDS)
- Not be subjected to unacceptable behaviours (e.g. bullying at work) (RELATIONSHIPS)
- Receive adequate information and support from colleagues and superiors (SUPPORT)
- Understand their role and responsibility (ROLE)
- Have a say about the way they do their work (CONTROL)
- Feel the organisation engages them frequently when undergoing an organisational change (CHANGE)
Each of these factors plays a part in making the work-environment a balanced, healthy place to be. Sadly, in a time of economic uncertainty it can sometimes be difficult to fulfil all these needs. For example, it’s very common for one person’s role to encompass many separate responsibilities – responsibilities which should ideally be shared amongst two or more employees. So not only must you then deal with this high workload and its subsequent demanding deadlines and clients, but also take into consideration other contributing factors to work stress: tight budgets, tricky managers or team dynamics. Let alone anything happening in your personal life (going through a divorce is the biggest cause of stress, followed by moving and buying a house).
BUILDING A WELLBEING PROGRAMME
At NMIOB, we believe that putting a structured wellbeing plan in place which is easy to track and helps ensure everyone you work with is being supported is vital. Happy employees tend to stay in a company longer and bring in more money, after all. When we work with clients to implement a wellbeing programme, we focus on the following three things:
This is the building block. Without an open dialogue within your team, it will be near impossible to start the process of stress reduction. People need to feel able to talk with colleagues and managers about personal problems that may impact their ability to work at their best – without repercussion. Most importantly, management should be trained to provide support. A third of line managers would struggle to identify whether their staff were experiencing mental health problems and would also be unsure of what to do if someone on their team did have a mental health problem. Yet, employees suffering from depression who feel they can openly discuss their illness with their manager are more productive than those who do not: employees concealing their condition take more days off work than their openly unwell counterparts. This is why making mental health and wellbeing an open topic in the office is so important – it must be led from the top with clear processes in place so employees can follow a clearly identified plan of support.
Tangible solutions to an often intangible problem will reassure employees you are actively working to reduce stress and improve wellbeing. Clear expectations should be set including how many hours work per week, how many days holiday and how many days in a row are acceptable. This will lead to a well-resourced company with increased team motivation, morale, productivity and performance – however busy it is.
The final piece. Many businesses are often at the mercy of their clients . However, with the previous internal processes and communication worked out, it’s time to take control of the external. This means clearly communicating with clients your company’s wellbeing policy so there is no unnecessary pressure on employees. If clear boundaries are put in place at the start of a project stipulating when, how and frequency of contact with employees, everyone will benefit.
On a scale of one to ten, how stressed do you feel right now? How do you manage stress at work?