Work stress: Managing stress at work

To be attributed to Sheri Hughes, D&I Director at Michael Page

Stressed woman suffering from a burnoutFeeling stressed at work is recognised as a common occurrence these days but this should not be the case.

Businesses need to acknowledge the harmful impact that stress can have on the workforce, and, wherever possible, take action to improve the mental wellbeing of their staff.

The benefits of this are clear: stressed employees generally don’t perform to the best of their ability, and businesses lose money from the sick days that employees need to feel well again. Efforts to alleviate excessive stress create positive outcomes for both the company and the workers themselves.

Whilst stressful or busy periods of work are unavoidable and can sometimes even be healthy to get your brain in gear, being overloaded with work and feeling as though there is nowhere to turn, isn’t. If someone continues to feel stressed in day-to-day life, it can lead to both mental and physical illness.

Mental health problems can affect anyone, at any age, so it is vital employers invest wisely in mental health support and have systems in place to provide help to employees when they need it. Companies of all sizes have a responsibility to ensure the mental and physical wellbeing of their people, so if stress avoidance isn’t already a priority consideration in your company, it should be.

Here are my top tips for reducing workplace stress:

Provide mental health support for employees

If your workplace doesn’t already support mental health in the workplace, it’s important to do so. Having a clear framework will help employees to feel supported as well as providing guidelines on how to seek help within the business, should they need it. If you only take one action to improve your workplace this Stress Awareness Week, installing a mental health framework should be the priority.

Invest in workplace wellness

It has been said time and time again, but exercise and a healthy lifestyle are extremely important when it comes to combating workplace stress. Employee wellness initiatives, such as organising a lunchtime running club, are a good way to help employees unwind and alleviate stress.

There is a wealth of ways to promote employee wellness within the office. For example, recognise the value of taking a break from a screen and encourage all employees to regularly step away from their desk. Getting out of the chair, stretching, or even looking at a different view and getting some fresh air are small changes that can make a big difference.

Be the wellbeing leader

Managers have an important role to play in helping their staff to handle stress in the workplace. They are often the first person that a stressed employee will approach and their ability to respond appropriately is key. However, a manager’s role goes beyond providing support to an employee who is in need, as they can also help to avoid harmful situations.

As a manager, practice what you preach and ensure you create an open, approachable environment for your team. Organising social gatherings, taking regular breaks and booking holidays will show your employees that it’s okay to take some time out and relax, which in turn will help to improve their mental wellbeing.

Be flexible

Maintaining a positive work-life balance is a key factor for employee happiness. Because of this, dynamic working is now a highly sought-after workplace benefit. Be open to allowing employees with children to adapt their working hours around the school run if they need to. Encourage working from home occasionally, so team members can enjoy a change of environment and allow work to fit in with everyday life.

As a business leader, you need to reassure your employees that you are aware of their stress levels and actively seeking to reduce stress in the workplace. This will not only improve their lives but will also help to create loyal team members who enjoy coming to work each day.

Sheri HughesAbout the author

Sheri Hughes is the UK D&I Director at Michael Page. In this role, she is responsible for all D&I in the UK with a focus on creating a more inclusive working environment in order to achieve better diversity.

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