Before Stress Awareness Month comes to an end, we wanted to squeeze in a piece about a highly prevalent issue we feel passionately about: stress in the workplace, and breaking the stigma surrounding associated mental health issues.
Did you know that a whopping one in four employees took time off work last year due to stress-related illness? What’s more, over 60% of the UK’s working population have reported that stress has affected their sleep, leaving them feeling physically and mentally unable to perform their duties to the usual standard. Those are some worrying statistics.
A recent report called “Breaking the Cycle” from the not-for-profit organisation BHSF describes the vicious stress-related cycle both employees and employers can get caught up in. It begins with a gradual build-up of work-related stress, which, over time, starts to impact life both in and outside of the workplace. This results in additional stress, leading to decreased productivity, heightened absence rates, and bouts of long term sick leave.
One of the most shocking revelations from the report is that 50% of sufferers feel uncomfortable approaching their employer with stress-related worries. This continued reluctance to speak out does nothing to help the cause, as so many employers continue to underestimate the seriousness of such illnesses.
“Breaking the cycle will rely on breaking the silence to address the perceived stigma”
-Leading Consultant Psychotherapist,
Dr David Cameron
So what is it that makes employees so reluctant to come forward when it comes to personal wellbeing at work? The report suggests that the main reason surrounds the lack of financial “safety nets”, with 71% of respondents claiming that their company offers no support beyond statutory sick pay, and over 80% have no personal sick pay or income protection.
Another find confirms that the stigma of stress and mental health issues is still very much alive within the workplace. This needs to be addressed. As well as encouraging employees to break the silence, employers need to educate themselves on the issues involved, and start taking steps to address them.
So, as employers, what can you do to improve the wellbeing of your employees?
1. Lead by Example
As an employer or manager, your busy schedule may encourage unhealthy habits such as working long, exhausting hours, neglecting to take breaks, or eating lunch at your desk. Take a moment to think about what example you’re setting to your employees, and strive to promote a healthy lifestyle instead.
Simple changes such as taking a proper lunch hour or stepping away from your desk for regular breaks will improve your mood and increase your productivity. Plus, if you pay attention to your own wellbeing, the likelihood is your coworkers will follow suit.
2. Do Your Homework
If one or more of your team is suffering from stress, knowing what warning signs to look out for and how to manage such situations can be immensely valuable. Some simple training can help line managers spot potential issues early on, meaning they can be addressed and hopefully resolved before the situation gets too out of hand.
Educating yourself will not only result in heightened employee wellbeing, you should see positive changes in morale, productivity, and who knows – you might even learn something about yourself in the process.
3. Introduce Stress Management Programmes
There are a variety of stress management techniques out there which can be invaluable for employee wellbeing. Not only can it help prevent stress-related illness, you can also expect increased efficiency and productivity, heightened morale, fewer absences and lower staff turnover.
From burnout prevention workshops to mindfulness exercises, restorative yoga and laugh and play sessions (are you aware of the extensive health benefits to laughter?), these programmes guarantee to improve the wellbeing of your workplace.
4. Offer Financial Support
Being unable to work due to injury and illness is the cause of a lot of financial hardship and worry for many employees and their families. You as employers are best placed to protect your workforce if such situations should arise. Think about what you currently offer your employees in terms of financial support, and what you could realistically implement to improve this.
Do you match or exceed statutory sick pay? Can you be flexible with working hours, or give your employees the option to work from home if they’re unable to make it into the office? Although some of these may not seem financially beneficial from a business perspective, research shows that it costs on average £30k to replace a staff member! Staff that receive good perks, especially regarding financial support and healthcare are more likely to stay loyal to your company.
If you’re an employer, we hope this article has helped shed some light on the importance of “breaking the cycle”. Taking a proactive approach to your employees’ wellbeing will help build a stronger, more resilient workforce, and reap mutual benefits.
If you’re interested in finding out more about our Wellbeing at Work programmes, contact us – we’d love to hear from you.