3 strategies for managing and reducing stress in the workplace
Did you know that workplace stress is on the rise? Perhaps you’ve seen evidence of this in your own organisation.
Left unchecked, workplace stress can lead to a number of negative business outcomes, including reduced productivity and employee engagement, as well as increased employee turnover and absenteeism.
But how can employers reduce stress in the workplace?
Fortunately, there are several strategies for managing stress in the workplace that you can implement.
What do we mean by ‘workplace stress’?
Stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure, and is caused by various stress hormones intended to trigger a ‘fight or flight’ response.
Workplace stress is simply our body’s response to pressure in our working life, which can happen when there’s a conflict between job demands and the amount of control we have over meeting these demands.
What causes stress in the workplace?
According to the Health & Safety Executive, there are six main areas that can lead to work-related stress:
- Demands — we’re not able to cope with the demands of the job
- Control — we’re unable to control the way we do our work
- Support — we don’t receive enough support to carry out our jobs effectively
- Relationships — we’re experiencing difficulties in our working relationships
- Role — we don’t fully understand our role or responsibilities
- Change — our employer implements change without engaging with employees
Signs that your employees may be stressed
There are a number of signs that your employees might be experiencing stress at work. It’s important to recognise these, as acting early can reduce the impact of the pressure on workers.
With this in mind, managers should lookout for the following:
Signs of stress in a team:
- Arguments between team members
- Higher than usual staff churn
- Teams self-reporting stress
- Increased absenteeism
- Poor team performance
- An increased number of complaints and grievances
Signs of stress in individuals
- Taking more time off than usual
- Acting twitchy or nervous
- Mood swings, including increased emotional reactions to workplace situations
- Being withdrawn
- A lack of motivation, commitment and confidence
What are the financial and health impacts of stress in the workplace?
We all feel stressed sometimes, but chronic workplace stress will have a number of significant impacts on your employees and the business itself.
Employees are less productive
When stress hormones kick in they give us a short-term burst of energy. It’s intended to help us deal with a ‘fight or flight’ situation, but if the stressor is prolonged it quickly drains our energy.
This seriously limits our physical and mental energy, but it also leads to a lack of focus. Think about the last time you felt stressed. Were you able to effectively focus on anything else?
Inevitably, performance and productivity are reduced.
Mental health issues are one of the main causes of absenteeism in the UK, and stress is a major element of that, alongside anxiety and depression.
On average, workers who suffer from stress, depression or anxiety take 21.6 days off work—that’s more than musculoskeletal disorders, injuries and other causes of ill health.
Stressed employees are less engaged
When we’re stressed at work we’re less engaged with the business's overall objectives. Instead, our thoughts are monopolised by whatever’s causing us to feel stressed.
This has big financial impacts on the business.
It’s estimated that employee disengagement costs the UK economy £52-70 billion in lost productivity every year.
Poor physical health
Stress is a mental health issue, but its effects can have an impact on our physical health too.
Physical symptoms of workplace stress include headaches, stomach complaints, elevated blood pressure, chest pain and trouble sleeping. Stress is also known to worsen symptoms of some diseases.
Poor physical health is also linked to reduced productivity and employee engagement, so it’s not something organisations should overlook. According to the Department for Work and Pensions, 42% of employees with a health condition felt their condition affected their work ‘a great deal’ or ‘to some extent’.
How can employers reduce stress at work? 3 strategies to consider
Let’s take a look in more detail at three strategies for managing stress in the workplace.
Foster a supportive workplace culture
We feel stressed when we don’t feel like we can meet the demands of a certain situation. By creating a supportive culture in the workplace where everyone is there for each other you can significantly ease the burden of stressors.
Conduct a stress risk assessment to help you identify and manage potential causes of stress, and ensure line managers are prioritising mental wellbeing during 1-to-1s with team members.
Having an outlet to talk about issues is also really important.
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) provide employees with an independent and confidential source of mental health support, vital for workers experiencing mental health issues, whether that’s stress, depression or anxiety.
Implement an employee recognition programme
Recognising and rewarding employees for a job well done has been shown to have a positive effect on some of the main consequences of workplace stress, including reducing voluntary staff churn and increasing productivity, but they also support employee mental wellbeing.
“... next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival, to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.”
- Stephen Covey, author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’
When we’re recognised, rewarded or simply thanked for something we’ve done at work we feel better about ourselves and our ability, and that confidence will make it less likely we feel overwhelmed by a situation in the future.
Simply put, we feel happy, and happiness significantly reduces stress. It also helps us to maintain a healthier blood pressure and get better sleep.
Support financial wellbeing
Worrying about money is one of the biggest drivers of stress in UK adults, so supporting employees’ financial wellbeing should definitely be a part of your organisation’s stress reduction strategy.
There are several ways you can support employees financial wellbeing beyond their monthly salary:
- Provide access to an employee benefits platform that includes discounts and offers on the weekly shop, as well as the things that make them happy.
- Reward great performance with eVouchers or preloaded recognition cards.
- Offer salary sacrifice schemes and help an employee’s salary go further, such as travel season tickets, annual leave purchases or money off family holidays.
What’s more, one in five workers said they’d value broader financial guidance, debt management and counselling if they were struggling with money worries.
Ready to reduce stress in your organisation?
According to 95% of HR leaders, burnout is one of the biggest challenges facing organisations.
Stress impacts every element of your business, so isn’t it time you got it under control?
Here at Sodexo Engage we’ve been supporting organisations in tackling workplace stress for over sixty years, and we’re best placed to help your business with a wide range of excellent solutions. These include:
- An award-winning range of employee benefits, including high street discounts, money off holiday bookings, affordable tech and more.
- An EAP that connects employees with counsellors that are fully accredited by the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- A number of products that support physical wellbeing, including discounted gym memberships, health screening and cycle-to-work schemes.
- A range of financial wellbeing tools, including employee loans, solutions to encourage saving, debt consolidation and financial education.
Ready to find out more about how we can reduce stress in your organisation? Our expert team is waiting for you to get in touch.
We’ll work with you to identify the best solutions for your business based on your specific challenges and what your employees will truly value. Give us a call or drop us a message and take the first step towards a less stressed, more effective workplace.