According to the Health and Safety Executive, 12.5 million working days were lost in the year 2016/17 due to stress, depression and anxiety. I think that’s awful. Long term stress can have such devastating consequences for sufferers’ mental and physical health that it’s pretty shocking so little time is dedicated to tackling it. A recent survey showed that the most common causes of stress were money and work so what can employers and employees do to nip this trend in the bud before it results in work days lost and long term ill health?
As an Employer
Workplace stress has become a sad fact of life but this isn’t something we have to accept. As employers, we can’t guarantee our employees will always be stress-free at work but there are some things we can control. Employees report feeling stressed when they don’t have autonomy in their work and feel unsupported by their managers and teams. By giving staff adequate ongoing training and support, we can help them feel confident in carrying out their work and allow them more freedom to make decisions. Team building activities get a bad reputation for being ‘enforced fun’ but there are actually lots of things you can do to help your team bond without making them rafts out of barrels and string or some such. I find it’s helpful to actually ask the team what they’d like to do to get to know each other better. It does mean that we do a lot of eating out and drinking but the team get along very well so it must be working.
My main advice to employers about tackling workplace stress is to be aware of it as a problem and don’t accept as just an inevitable part of running a business. Keep your eye on your staff for signs of stress and speak to them about how you can help them if need be.
As an Individual
It’s equally important to be aware of the signs of stress in yourself whether you’re a business owner, an employee or anyone really. If you find yourself sleeping badly, getting headaches, muscle tightness, aches and pains, upset stomach, feeling irritable or anxious, worrying constantly, finding it difficult to concentrate and eating, drinking or smoking more than you’d like to, you are probably stressed. Feeling overwhelmed all the time is not normal. The above symptoms are not just a normal part of life. It’s stress and it’s bad. Acknowledging this is the first step to tackling it. The next step is to take time out each day to relax even if it’s only five minutes to spend focusing on your breathing to let your mind have a break from worrying. It doesn’t actually matter what you do to take time out to reduce stress as long as you do it and do it regularly. I find floating and yoga are very useful in helping me to relax but everyone is different and it’s worth trying different things to find out what works best for you.
The bottom line is that stress isn’t normal and mustn’t be something we just accept.