Thursday 17th May 2018

We’re well into the swing of 2018, survived what seemed like an awfully long winter (here in the Northern hemisphere), and you’re feeling stressed. While stress isn’t a mental health problem, it can as states, “lead to a range of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, and even self-harm and suicide. By tackling stress, we can go a long way to tackling mental health problems.”

Every year in the United Kingdom, thousands support Mental Health Awareness week, 14-20 May. The theme for this year is stress.

Why are we feeling so stressed?

Financial problems, personal relationship difficulties, housing, commuting and a host of other factors could be contributing to stress levels. One of these factors… our work environments.

According to The Health and Safety Executive(HSE), the following are primary causes of work-related stress:

  1. Job demands – employees can feel overwhelmed with workloads or work types, and could feel overloaded.
  2. Work control – the level at which employees feel that their opinion matters and taken into account affects their satisfaction and performance levels.
  3. Employer support – employees who feel they can’t discuss issues or worries with their managers or colleagues could result in a rise in sickness absences.
  4. Work relationships – not building relationships on good behaviour as well as trust could lead to problems related to grievances, disciplinary issues or bullying.
  5. Employee roles – not knowing where you fit in to the framework of the company, what is expected of you, your role and contribution can cause stress.
  6. Change management – if change is not managed effectively, uncertainty and insecurities cold occur.

More recent research found that:

  • 28 per cent of Millennials felt the most under pressure at work, more so than any other generation, and that they were expected to work though this stress in their jobs.
  • 34 per cent of millennials stated that stress made them less productive at work; this compared to 19 per cent of older generations.
  • Only 14 per cent of people said they were actually comfortable speaking to their managers about their stress levels.

Why should we be looking at reducing workplace stress?

Company objections, ROI, as well as internal productivity and collaboration all benefit from happy employees, but it should also be noted that workplace stress can factor in how we manage stress at home. Feeling secure, happy and fully supported at work are mental boosters that we take with us after the workday is over.

A third of people in the UK have experienced suicidal feelings as a result of stress, and with the growing number of millennials feeling the pressures of the employee market, more so than past generations, it is time that we as a society, sit up, become more aware of stress levels, the stress levels of our friends, families and colleagues…

How can we reduce workplace stress?

Before we make assumptions about colleagues, it is important that we can identify signs, that could then lead to more possible action:

  • Have there been changes in employee behaviour or mood?
  • Is their interaction different with colleagues?
  • Have work standards dropped or has focus shifted?
  • Are there shifts in appearance – do they look or seem tired, anxious or withdrawn?
  • Is there a change in habits such as appetite, increased smoking or drinking levels?
  • Have the number of absentee days increased or an increase in tardiness?

We need to be proactive in our efforts to help combat workplace stress. Be it our own or giving support to colleagues who are feeling the effects.

Let’s start talking about mental health

The support we give colleagues with their wellbeing means they are more likely to open up about the struggles they are facing; if not to you but to a manager. If they are still not comfortable talking to you about their struggles, you could:

  • Move the conversation to a more private environment, no disruptions.
  • Be patient. Opening up can take time, give them this time.
  • Keep focused on what they are saying to you.
  • Remain open minded.

How can employers aid in elevating workplace stress?

  • Identifying what the problems are.
  • Noting how they were identified.
  • Note possible solutions.
  • Formulate an action place.
  • Put a timeline in place.

Statistics released by HSE are calling for societal change in the way mental health and stress are dealt with in our workplaces. Even though the cause of stress might not always be work-related, sometimes, small, simple changes in working arrangements could ease some of the stress affecting employees.

More stress-relieving tips:

  • Take a time out: Saving all that holiday leave for one big adventure or getaway might sound incredible, but when you really need a break during a very stressful period, with no leave left to take you may end up leaving yourself more stressed out.
  • Assess your work perks: Companies offer different perks; find out what these perks are, and utilise them. Even if it’s simply making sure you take that full lunch hour break, step away from your desk, go for a walk, or read a book, go for a run, anything that you enjoy outside of the work realm.
  • Bring in the light: Especially after a long winter period, where it feels like it’s dark all the time, the work hours are probably the only time we see some daylight. So try bring in as much natural light into your working environment as possible.
  • Know your limits: Excessive workloads are a big cause of work-related stress. Know your limits. If you are feeling overwhelmed, talk to your manager or HR about it.
  • Take control of your finances: Financial health effects our mental health. Budgeting is the new hip trend; without it, how would we afford those Matcha lattes and Instgramable brunches? We keep hearing the word ‘balance’and with regards to budgeting and our finances, finding that balance, utilising apps and assistance options aid us not only on our personal level but within our work environment too, as we are more focused on the tasks at hand.
  • And breathe: Meditation, yoga or just even taking long deep breaths, eyes closed, shutting out the noise can help lower heart rate levels, and bring you back focus.

Beyond this week, and the public awareness of another equally important issue is then raised, workplace wellness and the mental state of our colleagues needs to remain top of mind. We need to regularly check on how are colleagues are doing, note performance levels and interactions, productivity and project collaborations.

For more confidential support with mental health or self-harm feelings, please call Samaritans on 116 123.

Find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week here.

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