Stress Awareness Month – time for employers to step up

Did you know that April is Stress Awareness Month? Seventy-nine percent of employed British adults commonly experience workplace stress, and that figure is rising (not surprising given the past couple of years.)

The problem of stress is as important to the channel as it is anywhere. According to a 2021 study, 74 percent of those working in IT and technology have experienced feelings of work-related stress at some point in their career.

It is therefore important for employers to familiarise themselves with the signs and symptoms of stress, especially as an increase in the cost of living threatens to compound the issues faced by many.

For example, the energy price increases in the UK going into effect today will undoubtedly exacerbate feelings of stress, which could impact work performance and productivity.

Tina Chander, head of the employment law team at Wright Hassall, notes that the steep increase to the cost of living has left many feeling anxious about their current financial situation, and in many cases, this has a direct impact on how they feel at and about work.

“Considering that 79 percent of adults already experience workplace stress on a regular basis, this latest news should prompt employers to familiarise themselves with the signs and symptoms of workplace stress, so they can spot potential cases and offer the necessary support,” she said.

The impact of a negative employee experience

Elsewhere, workplace mental health platform Unmind has produced a report on the employee experience, mental health, and the post-Covid-19 workplace. It notes: “The employee experience – and employee mental health – affects work performance and an employee’s personal life.

“Mental health problems, such as depression, and anxiety, can affect every aspect of someone’s life. More troublesome is that many employees may, in fact, be unaware of the effects of these difficulties. They might put the symptoms down to being something physical or something that will pass. Or they simply assume that feeling stressed, tired, or burned out is part of the job – that these are acceptable symptoms and out of their control. Regardless, it's important to notice the impacts of negative employee experience to drive early intervention.”

Stress, of course, can lead to burnout. But as Dr Sofia Gerbase, clinical pyschologist at Unmind, noted recently, successfully managing stress is also at an organisational level.

“Organisations have a key role to play. How companies approach their role is crucial - you can be reactive – that is, trying to help staff who have already burned out (though there’s a higher chance these workers will be off sick, or looking to quit). Or proactive. This means putting things in place to make burnout symptoms of burnout far less likely. Think healthy boundaries, manager training, or a mentally healthy culture,” she says.

Given the fact that April is Stress Awareness Month, there couldn’t be a more perfect time for businesses to review their existing stress management procedures, taking steps to combat the issue, whether that be with flexible working hours, access to counselling services or an ‘open door policy’, says Tina.

“It is in the best interests of employers to do so, as failing to support stressed employees can lead to higher staff turnover, decreased productivity and poor morale, amongst other issues.”

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