87% – insight led workplace wellbeing for organisations and their people – explain why workplace wellbeing matters so much and how leaders can support employees dealing with stress and poor wellbeing. 

For many people, work is a major part of life. It’s where we spend much of our time, where we get our income and often where we make our friends. Having a fulfilling job is good for mental health and general wellbeing.

However, common mental health problems often impact the way we do our work, and the way we balance our life. Specific risk factors and the negative impact on career satisfaction mean that becoming aware of these issues is especially important, no matter your role within the business.

“Mental health is a state of wellbeing in which an individual realises their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to their community.” – World Health Organisation

One good way to understand mental health is to picture it on a continuum or scale, from wellness right through to illness. There are many different points on that scale in-between those two extremes. We are all on the scale and we move up and down it all the time, and never have a fixed position

Factors that might move you down the scale include: 

  • Challenging life events
  • Chronic stress
  • Feeling isolated
  • Exposure to trauma
  • A poor work-life balance
  • A lack of self-care

And what about factors that might move you up towards the wellness end? Things like having coping strategies in place for when things are tough. 

  • Getting enough rest
  • Having a support network around you
  • Healthy boundaries
  • A supportive work environment

Physical, emotional and mental health issues can all impact on how a member of your team feels about their work and about themselves. As a leader you have a significant impact on the success and wellbeing of your team, so it is important to recognise and identify the cause of an employee’s stress, poor wellbeing or decline in performance, so you can make early interventions with confidence.

Remember: We all have mental health and mental ill health can affect anybody. Early intervention and awareness are crucial as it can prevent issues from escalating further. We can all undertake preventative measures to look after our mental health and wellbeing.

As a manager, making sure there are measures in place to reduce the risk of work-related stress and helping teams get the support they need is a crucial part of your role in the workplace.

It’s important to remember it is not your responsibility to diagnose stress or mental ill health, but it is your duty to make sure there are measures in place to reduce the risk of work-related stress and to help get your staff support at work.

According to the Health and Safety Executive across Great Britain over the last couple of years, work-related stress accounted for over half (55%) of all working days lost to ill health, (17.9 million days). Over 828,000 workers reported suffering from stress, depression or anxiety, caused or made worse by work, a significant increase on the previous period.

Even on good days, stress can prevent us from being fully focused and doing our best work. It reduces our capacity to think clearly, be creative and make sound decisions as well as strain our relationships at work. So, it stands to reason that preventing or reducing the amount of stress on staff in the workplace, having happier or more satisfied staff, is beneficial for business, increasing productivity and reducing absenteeism and presenteeism.

 Causes of work-related stress

The best way to deal with unhealthy stress is to prevent it, and those in leadership and management positions need to be fully versed in the risks and take action to mitigate against each of them. Knowing the risks is essential.

There are 6 main areas of risk that lead employees to experience work-related stress:

    1. Demands – an excessive workload with unrealistic deadlines resulting in feelings of not being able to cope
    2. Control – not feeling like they have control over how they complete their work, being micro-managed and made to feel incompetent
    3. Support – feeling that they do not receive enough information or support from managers, being overlooked and not given the right resources, or even being blamed by others not willing to own up to mistakes
    4. Relationships – a lack of strong relationships at work and feeling like they don’t get on with colleagues or managers. Bullying and harassment is a very real issue here that needs immediate action.
    5. The Job Role – A lack of information and understanding about their role and responsibilities within the business, lack of training and guidance.
    6. Change – being uninformed about changes within the business, a lack of communication about current and future plans resulting in disengagement.

Open communication: the key to reducing work-related stress 

Good communication can remedy many stress-related issues but it is essential these conversations are had early and regularly, so solutions can be developed. Some of the key things to remember are:

  • Time should be made available for line managers to talk to their staff
  • Managers shouldn’t wait for staff to approach them
  • It is essential to provide a culture and environment where people feel supported and free to express what’s on their mind without fear of persecution
  • As a manager you should aim to be approachable, trustworthy and respectful to the way people feel
  • Ensure you have open doors and open ears to consult, to clarify and to guide your staff

Here are 3 ways to reduce work-related stress.

First, consult with and speak to your staff:

  • Communicate one-on-one. Listening attentively will make an employee feel heard and understood and help to lower their stress and yours even if you’re unable to change the situation.
  • Talk to them about the specific factors that make their work stressful. Some things may be relatively straightforward to address.

Second, clarify roles, goals and expectations:

  • Share information to reduce uncertainty about jobs and futures.
  • Provide training and support to match skills and knowledge with a person’s role.
  • Be sure the workload is suited to a person’s abilities and resources; avoid unrealistic expectations.

And third, offer rewards and incentives:

  • Praise good work performance verbally and organisation-wide.
  • Respect the dignity of each employee; establish a zero-tolerance policy for harassment or bullying.
  • Show that job stress is taken seriously by taking actions that will improve their ability to do good work.

Managers can and do make a real and positive impact when they help people recognise that their wellbeing is in decline. By communicating your concern sensitively and providing a safe space in which to talk and gain support, you can offer essential first steps in preventing stress from manifesting into illness at work.

 Ways to seek help if you are experiencing any of these issues:

Mind                      Samaritans                              NHS

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