An employer’s guide to workplace stress

An employer’s guide to workplace stress

Stress is a natural response to the daily challenges we all face in our personal and professional lives, but when we experience too much stress it can have a negative impact on our health and wellbeing. Over time persistent stress affects us both physically and emotionally. In the workplace we often call this ‘burnout’. This blog post aims to shine a light on the causes of stress at work, the signs and symptoms to watch out for and the steps employers can take to create a happier, healthier workplace.

What causes stress at work?

The HSE identifies six primary stressors that contribute to employee stress: demands, control, support, relationships, role and change.

Demands: when employees are unable to cope with the demands of their job, they could become overwhelmed and experience excessive levels of stress. This often happens when employees have large workloads, tight deadlines and unrealistic expectations put upon them. Employers should assess workload distribution and set achievable goals to prevent burnout.

Control: having a lack of control over the way you work, or being prevented from making decisions can contribute to stress. Empowering employees with autonomy and involving them in the decision-making processes can help to reduce staff turnover and keep employees engaged with the goals of the organisation.

Support: inadequate support from colleagues or superiors can create a sense of isolation. Building a supportive workplace culture, through effective communication and sensible allocation of roles can help take the strain off individual workers and make them feel they are part of a team.

Relationships: conflict or strained relationships among coworkers or between employees and management can be a significant source of stress. Bullying not only has a short-term impact on well-being but can have long lasting repercussions. Encouraging employees to come forward when they feel bullied and having adequate safeguards in place is essential for creating a stress-free workplace.

Role: ambiguity about roles and responsibilities can lead to stress. When employees fully understand the parameters of their job, it provides a sense of purpose and direction. It allows them to not have to worry about what their working day may or may not entail, and can help them plan ahead to organise their work.

Change: some employees do not cope well with change. If staff are not engaged when changes are happening in a business, it can lead to uncertainty and stress. When rapid organisational changes, such as restructuring or new management happens, employers should communicate changes transparently, involve employees in the transition and provide additional support.

Signs and symptoms of stress

Recognising the early signs of stress is crucial for mitigating the long-term consequences of stress.

Some of the signs of stress in a team are:

  • Arguments
  • Higher staff turnover
  • More sickness absence
  • Decreased performance
  • More complaints and grievances

In individuals, stress may present itself as:

  • Mood swings
  • Being withdrawn
  • Loss of motivation, commitment and confidence
  • Increased emotional reactions
  • Taking more time off
  • Arriving for work later
  • Being more twitchy or nervous

Support for workers

So what can employers do to provide a supportive environment for their employees?

The first thing employers can try is conducting stress risk assessments. Engaging with employees to identify potential workplace stressors and implementing strategies to mitigate them can have a big impact. Bringing employees into the process fosters a sense of ownership and contributes to a more open workplace environment.

Another thing employers can do is provide training. Equipping employees and managers with stress management and resilience-building skills can help them become better equipped to deal with any unavoidable stressful situations.

Flexible working arrangements are something that we have all become familiar with in recent years. Offering employees flexible schedules or remote work options to promote work-life balance can have a positive impact on employee health and wellbeing.

Finally employers can implement Employee Assistance Programs. EAPs ensure that employees have access to mental health services when they are facing personal or work-related challenges. These services can include confidential assessments, one to one counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy and psychological interventions.

In conclusion

By implementing these tips and collaborating with employees, employers can foster a culture that not only recognises the impact of workplace stress but actively works towards mitigating it. The result is a happier, healthier and more productive workforce. Let’s take bold steps towards creating workplaces where stress is managed effectively, ensuring a future where both employees and organisations thrive.