April is stress awareness month. This is a great time to reflect on the ways that stress may be affecting our employees and impacting on our businesses.

Stress is not always negative. A certain amount of stress can be good for us, keeping us motivated and pushing us to achieve our aims. In fact some people thrive in stressful and highly pressured situations, finding that it makes them more responsive, creative and productive.  If you’re anything like me, the pull of a looming deadline can help to improve focus and get things done. But there comes a point at which stress becomes unhealthy and can start to have rippling effects on our personal lives, wellbeing and ability to perform effectively at work. As with most things in life, the key is to achieve a balance. We need to recognise the difference between good and bad stress so we can find effective ways to control it.   

Far from being an issue that only affects individuals, stress can lead to significant problems in the workplace. It can lead to:  

  • High absenteeism
  • High labour turnover
  • Poor time keeping
  • Poor performance and productivity
  • Low morale
  • Poor motivation
  • Increased employee complaints
  • Increased ill-health, accidents and incidents reports

So what can we do about it?

  1. There are many ways to address stress in the workplace, but key to success is encouraging a supportive and open culture.
  2. Train managers well to recognise signs and causes of unhealthy stress and give them the tools and confidence to address concerns at an early stage.
  3. Encourage open communication and find ways to share key information with your team. If your company offers great perks like an employee assistance programme, gym memberships or a health care plan, then shout about it! Encourage your employees to make good use of the support available to them.
  4. Get people talking and supporting each other. Encourage employees to share their thoughts and feedback and be prepared to take action to show you’re listening – small changes can go a long way.
  5. Think about introducing flexible working practices if you don’t have them in place already. Caring responsibilities, hectic daily commutes and personal commitments can all add to our stress levels. Options to help improve work-life balance can have a significant impact.
  6. Care about your employees. Follow up with them after periods of sickness absence and make sure they take regular breaks and time away from their work. Encourage healthy habits like outdoor walks at lunchtime or ditching the chocolate and fatty snacks in favour of fruits and healthier options.
  7. Encourage your team to switch off at the end of their working day and refrain from emailing and working late into the evening on a regular basis. Longer hours worked does not necessarily equal greater productivity and can often have the reverse effect.  

Let’s talk about stress and find ways to beat it together!