Stress can cause a significant strain on employees’ overall health, which can lead to more serious problems in the long run. According to a report by CIPHR, one in 14 (7%) of adults in the UK feel stressed every single day – this report further noted that 23% of UK adults admit that work, in general, causes them stress.
As work is a large contributor to stress, employers should provide their support in preventing and lowering stress among their employees. Allowing for stress to build up may cause a lowering of work performance, as well as damaging physical and mental health.
Workplace Stress – What is It and What Does It Look Like?
The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines workplace stress as ‘the adverse reaction a person has to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed upon them.’
Pressure can be a good thing – it can drive motivation and fuel ambition in the workplace. However, when a person experiences constant pressure without having the chance to recover – that is when stress comes.
Workplace stress is often caused by these factors:
- Overload in work or lack of work
- Not being in control of the work being done
- Conflicting priorities
- Extreme or significant change
- Management style
- Non-work factors (family or relationship issues, personal illness or health issues)
It is important for employers and employees to know what stress may look like in the workplace. Being aware of signs of stress can help contribute to the prevention of more adverse outcomes.
Signs of workplace stress include:
- A decline in work performance
- Increase in emotional reactions (crying, arguments, irritability)
- Aggressive behaviours
- Increase in smoking or alcohol consumption
- Decline in hygiene
- Nervous speech
- Rapid weight change
How Can Employers Contribute to Lowering Workplace Stress?
When the signs mentioned above start to show in the workplace, employers should take action to support their employees. The HSE has laid out Management Standards to address workplace stress – which is a set of factors that can help employers to map out stress and produce an action plan.
The six factors are:
- Demands – anything related to workload, work patterns and the work environment
- Control – how much autonomy a person has in conducting their work
- Support – any form of encouragement, sponsorship and resources
- Relationships – maintaining positive working to avoid conflict
- Role – ensuring there are no conflicting roles and employees understand their roles
- Change – how organisational change is managed and communicated
By knowing these factors, employers can identify the cause of stress to implement appropriate and effective action.
Employers should also have these practical measures to combat workplace stress. These measures are:
- Implementing an employee assistance programme
- Have written guidance or policy for stress
- Providing safe spaces for employees to discuss their stresses
- Providing reasonable adjustments when needed
- Agree to an achievable workload for struggling employees
- Offer additional training when needed
- Involve occupational health specialists
- Invest in people management skills development for managers
Overall, there are efforts that can be taken by employers to maintain a supportive work culture to prevent workplace stress. It is within the interests of everyone to maintain a healthy workplace so that employees can achieve their potential at work, while also feeling fulfilled in other aspects of their lives