Stress and the Workplace: What Can Be Done?
By Robert Hosking, Co-Founder of Rise of Happiness
In the fast-paced and demanding world of today's workplaces, stress has become an all-too-common companion for employees. The impact of stress on mental health is undeniable, with staggering statistics revealing its toll on both individuals and the economy. In the UK alone, a staggering 13.7 million working days are lost each year due to work-related stress, anxiety, and depression, resulting in an annual cost of £28.3 billion. A survey indicates that a significant 74% of UK adults have experienced stress to the point of feeling overwhelmed in the past year. This highlights the urgent need for effective stress management strategies in the workplace.
One crucial aspect of maintaining wellbeing amidst professional responsibilities is recognising the importance of breaks. Taking regular breaks during the workday is not a luxury but a necessity. Studies have shown that short breaks can significantly enhance productivity and reduce stress levels. Encouraging employees to step away from their desks, stretch, or take a brief walk can contribute to mental and physical rejuvenation. Employers should foster a workplace culture that values and promotes the positive impact of breaks on overall wellbeing.
HOWEVER, taking breaks should have different meanings to us all. That is because we all work differently. Some will be able to work longer without a break while others need more regular, longer breaks. Whatever works for you, the fact remains that breaks of any kind are paramount to productivity and good wellbeing.
Furthermore, it's essential to emphasise the significance of self-care, especially during extended shifts. In the midst of a hectic work schedule, dedicating time to personal activities can be a powerful stress management tool. Whether it's enjoying a hobby, practicing mindfulness, or engaging in physical exercise, allocating time for oneself is crucial for maintaining a healthy life balance. This not only helps in reducing stress but also enhances an individual's resilience in coping with workplace challenges. No matter how long your shift is, let’s not fall into the trap of believing that we can only do ‘fun’ things when the weekend comes, or our annual leave arrives. Your wellbeing is for every day, so it is imperative to ensure you do something for yourself daily. It may be only for 5 minutes, but the compounding interest adds up.
Employee wellbeing programs can play a pivotal role in addressing workplace stress. Establishing initiatives that focus on mental health awareness and stress management can create a supportive environment. Providing resources such as counselling services, workshops, and wellness activities can empower employees with the tools they need to navigate stress effectively. Additionally, fostering open communication about mental health can help break down the stigma associated with stress, encouraging individuals to seek help when needed.
Flexibility in work arrangements can be a powerful stress-relief strategy. Allowing employees to have control over their work schedules, providing options for remote work, or implementing flexible hours can contribute to a healthier life balance. This flexibility empowers employees to manage their time more efficiently, reducing the pressure and stress associated with rigid work structures.
Employee engagement initiatives can also contribute significantly to stress reduction. Creating a positive and inclusive workplace culture fosters a sense of belonging and support. Recognising and appreciating employees for their efforts and achievements can boost morale and reduce stress levels. Let’s remember, we aren’t dealing with robots. We are dealing with humans. Team-building activities, social events, and mentorship programs can further strengthen the sense of community within the workplace, providing a buffer against stress.
In conclusion, tackling workplace stress requires a comprehensive and proactive approach. By incorporating strategies such as breaks, self-care practices, and wellbeing programs, employers can contribute to a healthier and more resilient workforce. The alarming statistics on work-related stress in the UK underscore the urgency of prioritising mental health in the workplace. As we navigate the challenges of the modern work environment, investing in the wellbeing of employees is not just a moral imperative but a strategic decision that can lead to a more productive and sustainable future.