Stress and pressure will always be a part of the modern workplace. The very nature of work inevitably puts us under strain from time to time, especially when we’re trying to meet tight deadlines and manage heavy workloads. However, although this kind of stress is sometimes expected, the effects of long-term, continuous pressure can quickly become incredibly damaging.
Although short-term pressure can actually prove an effective motivational tool, cases of chronic stress could result in all manner of behavioural, physical and psychological side-effects. In addition to feeling much more irritable, depressed and anxious, workers suffering from work-related stress can also experience headaches, stomach cramps and chest pains.
The causes of such elevated stress levels will obviously differ between workers, since employees will always react to workplace pressure in different ways. Nevertheless, data from both HSE and a recent Cascade HR study show that high workloads are the leading cause of excessive pressure, while longer hours, unrealistic expectations and an overall lack of support are also common factors.
Either way, as an employer, you have an obligation to minimise stress and support mental wellbeing in the workplace. From delivering health and safety elearning training to establishing firm work-life boundaries, here’s how you can make sure you’re fulfilling those obligations:
Provide Employees with Stress Awareness Training
When employees aren’t sure how to recognise or identify the causes of work-related stress, then they simply can’t manage any intense pressure effectively. Through a stress awareness course, you can ensure all workers are made fully aware of the dangers of continuous work-related stress, while also making sure they have a much better idea of what causes stress and how to spot the signs.
More importantly, stress awareness training will help employees better handle these stressful situations and minimise their potentially damaging effects. Ultimately, this will result in fewer absences, increased productivity and happier employees; since mental health problems caused the loss of over 15 million working days last year, this needs to be considered a priority for every business in 2019.
Maintain Work-Life Boundaries
For some people, feelings of constant pressure stem from an inability to switch themselves off from work. We live in a world which is constantly connected by instant messaging, email and virtual workspace platforms, meaning workers can often feel as though they’re always on the clock, under pressure from management to get work done from different places and spaces.
To prevent employees from feeling completely burnt out, you need to establish firm boundaries between workers’ personal and professional lives; which typically involves limiting your contact with them outside of working hours. By allowing workers to truly switch off in their leisure time, you can prevent them from feeling overworked and strained, and help them to create a much more manageable work-life balance.
Promote Healthy Lifestyles
Adopting a healthy lifestyle is a well-known stress management technique. Combining regular exercise with a nutritional, balanced diet will ultimately ensure workers feel fresher and more energised at work. While intense pressure can often lead to feelings of fatigue and tiredness, a consistent workout schedule will help to combat these effects, especially when employees are also maintaining healthy sleep patterns.
As an employer, you need to promote the importance and benefits of healthier lifestyles, and highlight how much of an impact this can have on a worker’s performance and happiness. By providing perks such as free fitness classes, discounted gym memberships or even just serving healthier food in the staff canteen, you can ensure employees feel better prepared to handle stressful situations.
Create a More Supportive Working Environment
When employees feel as though they can talk through any mental health problems, either with management or colleagues, then they’ll be able to handle work-related stress more effectively. By creating a truly supportive working environment, employees will feel much more comfortable in addressing any of their own mental health problems, while also offering help to any colleagues who are also struggling.
Instead of making workers feel isolated, depressed and ultimately overwhelmed, your business needs to make it clear just how seriously you take their mental wellbeing. Raising awareness of the problem through staff training is certainly the first step in conquering work-related stress, but then it’s up to you to ensure workers have access to the support they need.