What is workplace stress?
A recent report, Mental Health in the Workplace, revealed that more than four in ten employees have suffered from stress.
In the last five years, over half of those employees said that their jobs have become more stressful. With a clear correlation between stress and mental health conditions, identifying the main causes of workplace stress is as important as being able to offer support.
While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and performance, impact your physical and emotional health, and affect your relationships and home life. It can even determine success or failure on the job. You can’t control everything in your work environment, but that doesn’t mean you’re powerless, even when you’re stuck in a difficult situation. Whatever your ambitions or work demands, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from the damaging effects of stress, improve your job satisfaction, and bolster your well-being in and out of the workplace.
There are 6 main areas of work design which can effect stress levels. You should manage these properly. They are:
- Demands– this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment
- Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work
- Support – this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues
- Relationships – this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
- Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles
- Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation
Employers should assess the risks in these areas to manage stress in the workplace.
What are the common causes of workplace stress?
With 70% of employees suffering from a mental health condition, identifying the leading causes of stress in the workplace is important so, as an employer, you can take proactive steps to minimise or eliminate the risk all together.
Stress isn’t always bad. A little bit of stress can help you stay focused, energetic, and able to meet new challenges in the workplace. It’s what keeps you on your toes during a presentation or alert to prevent accidents or costly mistakes. But in today’s hectic world, the workplace too often seems like an emotional roller coaster. Long hours, tight deadlines, and ever-increasing demands can leave you feeling worried, drained, and overwhelmed. And when stress exceeds your ability to cope, it stops being helpful and starts causing damage to your mind and body—as well as to your job satisfaction.
If stress on the job is interfering with your work performance, health, or personal life, it’s time to take action.
No matter what you do for a living, or how stressful your job is, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your overall stress levels and regain a sense of control at work.
Common causes of workplace stress include:
- long hours and shift work;
- lack of control or insecurity;
- lack of job satisfaction, boredom or isolation;
- fear of violence, bullying or harassment;
- bad relations with other work colleagues;
- problems with the working environment (such as noise, temperature, overcrowding and poor facilities);
- low pay.
What illnesses can be caused by stress:
Stress can cause mental and physical illnesses such as anxiety, depression, altered appetite, headaches, backache or difficulty in sleeping. Over time, heart disease or ulcers may also develop.
People may also try to reduce the symptoms of stress with alcohol, cigarettes, tranquillisers or other drugs, which can lead to further, more serious health issues.
How to identify if your employees might be suffering from workplace stress?
Each employee will handle stress in their own way, but there are some key signs that as an employer you should look out for:
- Working long hours
- Higher levels of absenteeism
- Higher staff turnover
How to reduce employee stress in the workplace?
As an employer, it is important that you have a strategy in place to reduce your employees stress at work. Here are four things you can do to reduce stress in the workplace:
1. Offer support – Sometimes the best stress-reducer is simply sharing your stress with someone close to you. The act of talking it out and getting support and sympathy—especially face-to-face—can be a highly-effective way of blowing off steam and regaining your sense of calm. The other person doesn’t have to “fix” your problems; they just need to be a good listener.
2. Turn to co-workers for support – Having a solid support system at work can help buffer you from the negative effects of job stress. Just remember to listen to them and offer support when they are in need as well. If you don’t have a close friend at work, you can take steps to be more social with your co-workers. When you take a break, for example, instead of directing your attention to your phone, try engaging with your colleagues.
3. Lean on your friends and family members – As well as increasing social contact at work, having a strong network of supportive friends and family members is extremely important to managing stress in all areas of your life. On the flip side, the lonelier and more isolated you are, the greater your vulnerability to stress.
4. Build new satisfying friendships – If you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to—at work or in your free time—it’s never too late to build new friendships. Meet new people with common interests by taking a class or joining a club, or by volunteering your time. As well as expanding your social network, helping others—especially those who are appreciative—delivers immense pleasure and can help significantly reduce stress.
5. Encourage flexible working – see if there is a way to start some flexible working maybe later starts or less hours or maybe even a job share.
6. Respect your employees’ personal time – try not to give them work to take home, if the workload is building up then maybe ask another employee to help short-term.
7. Start an exercise class at lunchtime – exercise always makes you feel better. It is a time when you don’t think about work and are living in the moment (usually). You should find you go back to work feeling very refreshed.
8. Make sure you get enough sleep – sleep can be an issue for many reasons so always try to get 6-10 hours if possible by:
- Making sure your room is the right temperature for you
- Don’t eat a big meal within 2 hours of going to bed
- Have a relaxing bath with lavender essential oil and epsom salts
- Read a book
- Don’t work in your bedroom
- Turn off phone and devices 2 hours before you want to sleep
- Maybe listen to a meditation app/podcast before sleep
- Drink a calming tea such as Chamomile or Green Tea
- Add a couple of drops of Lavender doTERRA essential oil to your wrist after your dinner and 1 hour before bed. I would also suggest on the heels of your feet mixed in with your foot cream 1 hour before bed.
Here is a workbook that could possibly help you www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/wbk01.pdf
Chestnut Associates is always on hand to support you with any of the items above – please contact us for further details