Why tackling stress in the workplace is critical for organisations

Why tackling stress in the workplace is critical for organisations

With workplace wellbeing becoming more of a priority for employees, employers must learn to tackle stress first.

According to Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) annual survey, 1.7m workers suffered from a work-related illness, around half of which were stress, depression and anxiety in 2020/21. Mental health issues such as stress, depression and anxiety have a detrimental impact on an employee’s livelihood, productivity, and happiness.

With work-related stress causing a significant impact on employees’ lives, all organisations, including SMEs, must recognise the importance of managing stress and mental health issues in the workplace. Here are five reasons why tackling stress in the workplace is critical for organisations:

Reduces employee engagement 

The global pandemic has not been easy for employees, from constantly facing stress surrounding the worry of catching the virus to facing economic uncertainty affecting their jobs. Although the economy seems to have improved since last year, it does not stop additional pressures adding to their worries from the workplace. For example, many employees will not want to be forced back into the office five days a week. This can affect how employees focus on their work during work hours, reducing engagement in their work and contribution to the team. 

Lowers employee productivity 

Employee productivity follows on from a reduction in employee engagement. Stressed employees worry about too many things. Whether it’s a last-minute task that has been thrown on to them or preparing for a meeting, employees may panic about the worst-case scenario, stressing themselves out and further diminishing their levels of productivity. Stress can also inhibit creativity. Remind employees to take a walk and start afresh with a new pair of eyes. Having that space can create clarity and help refresh those creative juices to allow more productive working.

Creates a negative work environment  

Unfortunately, when employees feel stressed, it can lead to argumentative phrasing being used in the workplace. Unintentionally, stress often leads to people becoming short-tempered about the situation.  

Organisations need to support employees to prevent this from taking place, talk to the employee, understand the reason for their stress and support them in tackling the issue at the root before it escalates. Employees that feel stressed can create a negative work environment for others, bringing the rest of the team down. So, if someone feels stressed due to the actions of another employee, e.g., receiving short deadlines, then support them in assessing their work tasks to prioritise vital tasks first. Reducing the impact of stress on the team can help improve everyone’s mood.  

Negatively impacts work quality 

Feeling stressed means employees will not give their 100%. Stressed employees will struggle to remember things and process new information, negatively impacting work tasks which require concentration. Feeling mentally exhausted due to a stressful environment will mean the employee is more prone to making mistakes at work, affecting the overall quality of their work. 

Increases employee absenteeism  

Employees suffering from work-related stress consequently view their work as a negative environment, affecting their overall mental health. This leads to employees feeling unhappy about their job, increasing absenteeism. 

Improving the overall workplace environment so that employees feel safe, happy and positive is crucial in reducing the rate of absenteeism. Identifying the reason for stress is vital. Stress could occur for various reasons, including an escalating number of employees resigning and the organisation not hiring quickly – leaving the remaining employees to deal with the increasing workload. In this case, organisations must support employees by speeding up the hiring process to reduce workload, decreasing stress and nonattendance.

The solution

Recognising what stress looks like is critical. Educating line managers to spot the signs of stress and how to address it will help them understand which employees need additional support. Communication is critical. Regular catchups with employees to hear what they are going through and supporting them to reduce workload can help tackle stress. Advising employees on stress-busting tactics such as taking a break, going for a walk or listening to mindfulness music can all add up to helping to improve the employee’s mood and mental health. Create an open environment, encouraging employees to talk and discuss any issues they are experiencing, allowing line managers to help them.

Darren Hockley
Darren Hockley

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