Is the stigma around workplace stress preventing women from speaking out?

Ten Small Lifestyle Changes that Could Really Reduce Your Stress Levels
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By Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of CV-Library

According to our research, nearly two thirds (60%) of women think that employers look down on workers who get stressed, with a staggering 88.1% believing that being susceptible to stress at work can have an impact on career progression. It’s clear that the stigma around workplace stress is preventing many women from speaking out when they need help. Below, I explore the top three reasons women feel this way, and what businesses need to do to combat this misconception.

“Employees should be able to handle stress”

This theory should never be promoted in the workplace. While it’s important to show some element of resilience, and not fall at the first hurdle, no employee should be expected to deal with stress at work. Instead, employers should promote best practice in the workplace, and this falls heavily with training managers on spotting the signs of stress and addressing them head on. If not dealt with effectively, it can promote all the wrong messages to staff. Workers need to feel motivated, supported and not embarrassed to admit that things can get a bit much sometimes. Fostering a culture that actively combats workplace stress is extremely important.

“Being stressed negatively affects work performance”

If not dealt with correctly, businesses may find that workers’ performance is affected by stress. After all, employees who are overworked, overtired and unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel will inevitably be less focussed and switched on. It’s as simple as that! The problem is, because there is such a stigma around workplace stress, employees are often afraid of admitting that they’re under-performing in certain areas because they are feeling the pressure. On the other hand, some employees don’t want to admit that they’re stressed, because they went to get a promotion or pay rise, and therefore want to appear as if they’re handling it. Again, employees need to feel as if it is acceptable to raise their hands and ask for help when things get too much.

“Stress causes employees to burn out and spend time away from the office”

If left unmanaged, stress can cause employees to burn out and spend time away from the office but this should not be perceived as a negative thing. We all need space to breathe, especially when everything seems to come crashing on top of us at once. I believe that employers should actively encourage their staff to take time out when they’re feeling overwhelmed; whether that’s giving an employee half a day back to do something that enables their wellbeing, or allowing them to leave early. On the other hand, managers should be ensuring that workers don’t get to the burn out stage in the first place, and this can only be achieved by closely monitoring employees’ wellness in the workplace.

All in all, it’s clear that businesses have an important part to play in helping their employees to alleviate some of the pressures that occur in the workplace. Unfortunately, there is a stigma around workplace stress, and while many organisations are working hard to eliminate this, the responsibility still lies with businesses to promote best practice and support their workforce when things become overwhelming.


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