Stress is a word we hear all too often. Everyone is stressed out about something be it money, kids or the hectic nature of today’s lifestyle, but the top reason many people give for feeling stressed is work. The HSE (Health & Safety Executive) defines work-related stress as "The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work." Whether you’re a high-flying executive or in an admin, support role, stress can affect any one at any level and in any industry.
The HSE recognises six key areas that can contribute to workplace stress if they are poorly or improperly managed:
It is important to note that it doesn’t take all six of these contributing factors to cause workplace stress; it could be any combination of them, or even just one.
We are all aware that stress of any kind, has significant repercussions for the sufferer, but what companies need to be aware of is the negative impact that workplace stress can have on business. Some symptoms of stress include confusion, demotivation and an inability to concentrate, which has an immediate effect on the ability to work, resulting in reduced productivity and a drop in employee engagement. This can be exacerbated by other symptoms, such as nervousness, insomnia and varying levels of depression, which frequently then lead to increased levels of absenteeism. Not good for any business.
So how can we avoid workplace stress? There are a number of approaches that companies can take, which can improve the wellbeing of staff and secure a happy, healthy, productive workforce in the process.
The first step is to recognise the problem and implement measures to reduce or remove the causes of stress. Going back to the contributors listed above, these can have a knock-on effect on each other, which can be exploited when attempting to combat stress. For example, increasing an employee’s control over their workload can immediately reduce the demands that they feel. Enabling them to better plan and prioritise is both empowering and calming. Simple tweaks to internal teams could resolve problems regarding relationships and support. Separating those who clash immediately removes one stress, and will therefore improve the team balance, which consequently boosts morale and provides members with a support network. Improvements to teams and reporting lines naturally improves communication, allowing staff to better understand their own roles and their place within the organisation.
Resolving these negative influences in the workplace is a decisive step towards eliminating stress. Taking it a stage further, it is sensible to consider preventative measures to stop stress developing in the first place. These could be many and varied, but in short it requires the introduction of policies or activities that motivate and incentivise staff, so the work environment becomes a positive and rewarding place. Knowing that working hard and achieving results will ultimately result in recognition or reward is proven to enhance employee engagement and staff satisfaction.
From hosting team-building days to offering awards for achievement, there are a myriad range of possibilities, so your plan can be shaped to fit your business. It is even possible to involve staff in the planning of their incentives, so the reward is more personal and desirable to the individual. Plus this is another way of giving an individual more control over their work to reduce stress levels. By choosing their own reward an employee can plan their workload and set personal targets, with their particular goal in mind. It is another route to empowerment and a way to develop confidence and an employee’s sense of worth.
Ultimately, steps such as these will promote positivity and engage staff, as opposed to creating a workforce so weighed down with stress that it has lost the will to work.