Buck Bond Group
Stress in the workplace

Stress in the workplace

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I always liked the Andrew Bernstein quote “Remember that stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life.”  It’s helped me gain perspective when I’ve gone through more stressful times, including stress related to work.

Many of us can feel under pressure at work. To an extent this can be useful, when a sense of urgency gives us energy and motivation to rise to a challenge. But when stress builds up too much, and causes feeling of anxiety, depression or being overwhelmed, this creates a negative effect on mental health – and can also cause physical symptoms.

CIPD’s 2022 Health and Wellbeing at Work report stated that “(79%) of respondents reported some stress-related absence in their organisation over the last year, and this figure rises to 90% of large organisations (with more than 250 employees).” Workloads and management style were identified as the main causes of workplace stress.

There are many ways that employees can mitigate workplace pressures, to prevent stress rising to an unmanageable level. These can include:

  • Identifying triggers – sometimes these triggers can’t be avoided, such as in the case of necessary urgent deadlines. But understanding what they are and being prepared with coping mechanisms, such as taking things one step at a time, can help.
  • Addressing the causes – where stress is higher than it needs to be and can be managed better, steps can be taken to resolve the issue
  • Accepting the things that can’t be changed – this can help in refocusing on more productive thoughts and actions.
  • Organising your time – this will increase the feeling of being in control. Don’t forget to factor in time to plan or taking breaks! Making lists, varying activities and not undertaking too many tasks at once, as well as identifying the best time of day to address certain tasks, can all mitigate stress.

Tackling stress can also be about a general shift in mindset. Building up more emotional resilience can help to deal with stress and pressure. Using relaxation techniques and finding a balance between work and other areas of life will help. Looking after physical health, by eating well and being physically active, can also help relieve stress and mitigate compounding impacts on mental health.

Sometimes it’s about being assertive, and saying no to additional tasks when it’s not realistic to take on more. Conversely, one cause of stress that can be missed by managers is where an employee does not have enough work or responsibility, leading to feeling under-valued or not part of the team. Having the confidence to ask for more responsibility can help with self-esteem and career progression.

There are many steps that employers can take to reduce workplace stress, both to assist employees with their own wellbeing and to maintain a supportive workplace culture:

  • Ensure that there is regular communication with employees about the mental and physical wellbeing resources available to them. Beyond individual benefits such as gym memberships, group risk providers (offering group life assurance, income protection and critical illness) may provide wellbeing services including mental health apps, self-help material, support pathways and access to counselling.
  • Establish and use colleague support networks to boost a positive workplace wellbeing culture. Support can come from line managers, peers, HR or union representatives. Many employers now have trained Mental Health First Aiders as a first line of employee support  – MHFA England is a good starting point for employers considering this support.
  • Provide a confidential Employee Support Program (EAP), through which employees can access counselling and support groups. This can include targeted support for particular causes of stress, such as bereavement.
  • Supporting flexible working, which can result in reduced stress levels
  • Undertaking staff surveys or stress audits, training line managers and engaging occupational health specialists

Reducing stress in the workplace is often a balance between establishing the culture and structures to maintain a positive work environment, as well as providing the resources to enable employees to best maintain their own wellbeing. By being mindful of these factors, employers can best support their employees, reduce absence and boost productivity.