If we thought we were stressed at work before the pandemic, several lockdowns and orders to work from home later and our stress levels as a nation are through the roof.
In 2019/20, cases of stress at work led to 17.9 million days of absence from work in the UK alone. And current stats show that workplace stress is significantly higher now than before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although one study found that 86% of employers said tackling stress and mental burnout were a priority, only 26% had a wellbeing strategy in place for stressed employees.
Increasing levels of stress in the workplace and the resulting absenteeism are a real concern for employers, but lucky for you there are many things you can do to help your people’s wellbeing.
Promote work-life balance
Having a good work-life balance is key to dealing with the negative effects of stress at work.
To help your team, take your cue from Portugal which recently adopted a new law which prevents bosses from texting employees outside of work hours. Several other countries also have the 'right to disconnect' which aims to promote work-life balance.
While there is no UK law to prevent line managers from contacting employees outside of work hours, a workplace policy discouraging contact after working hours can be beneficial for employees' stress levels and mental health.
Feeling unappreciated by their employer can be a major stressor for many employees. In a recent survey, 28% of respondents said that feeling unappreciated was the thing that bothered them most about their current jobs. Lack of appreciation can also contribute to burnout, poor employee engagement and a loss of productivity.
One extremely simple way for employers to reduce stress in the workplace is to show frequent and authentic appreciation for employees. Congratulate them on their successes, accept their failures and give praise liberally to your employees so they know that their work is valued. We’ve recently looked into workplace recognition and rewards so check that out.
Some of the major causes of work-related stress are feeling unable to meet expectations and cope with pressures at work, so it's important to give employees the flexibility and autonomy to do their work how they see fit. Focus on the results of employees' work rather than micromanaging how or when they do it, and they'll feel less job-related stress.
Offering flexibility is especially important for your employees who are also parents. 75% of working parents suffer from anxiety and stress because of the struggle of balancing work and home life. To help alleviate stress for all employees, offering flexibility in when and where they work is key. And providing a flexible work environment can benefit employers too.
When work is stressful, employees are less likely to take care of their health which in turn leads to more stress. So supporting employees' mental and physical health is key. Encourage employees to get fresh air and exercise by organising outdoor meetings, offering lunchtime fitness classes or subsidising gym membership.
Physical exercise is one of health professionals' most recommended ways for people to deal with stress. Even just five minutes of aerobic exercise on your lunch break can reduce stress, and exercise can also increase concentration, self-esteem and improve cognitive function.
Other ways for employers to improve staff physical wellbeing include stocking healthy snacks and fruit in the office and keeping jugs of water on desks to make sure employees stay hydrated.
Create open communication
One of the most important ways to reduce stress at work is to check in with your employees and actively listen to them. Hold one-to-one meetings to find out how they’re coping and share anonymous surveys so they can share anything they might feel uncomfortable talking about.
Ask what causes stress in their work day and what you as an employer can do about them. Do they feel that workloads and expectations are too high? Would they work more effectively at different times of day? Do they want a new break area where they can chill out away from their desks?
To create a healthy and low-stress workplace, listen to your team members and make sure that you act on their feedback.
Working long hours without regular breaks can be both a cause and a symptom of stress at work. Your employees might feel they can better tackle their workload by working long hours without stopping, but research suggests that this might not be good for productivity.
In fact, some studies have estimated that the average worker in an 8 hour day only has 2 hours and 53 minutes of real productivity. Other researchers have suggested that for every 2 hours of focus on work, an employee needs a 20-30 minute break. This is because without taking a break, we start to lose focus, get distracted and make mistakes.
Research shows that taking short breaks at work can reduce stress and maintain productivity throughout the day. So, to help with stress management for your employees, encourage them to take frequent breaks from their work. We get people up and about with our famous Cake Wednesdays and lots of breakout areas for a change of scenery.
Provide mental health support
While small amounts of stress are a normal everyday reaction to pressure, high levels of stress are a major health issue. Chronic stress can lead to an increased risk of health conditions.
Providing employees with mental health support such as counselling can be key to tackling stress. You might choose for members of your team to undergo mental health first aid training or provide your employees with subscriptions to meditation apps like Headspace.
Whatever you choose to do, it's important to emphasise to employees that stress at work is a real mental health issue and not a sign of weakness or inability to cope with their workloads. Break the stigma by sharing your own experiences of stress with your employees and creating clear stress management strategies that employees can use.
Be more social
When they're worrying about a stressful upcoming deadline, taking a break for social activity might be the last thing that your employees want to do. However, feelings of social support and belonging are good for reducing stress.
Organising social events such as team lunches or Friday drinks (we love our drinks trolley) are good for both company culture and stress management. Bonding with coworkers is a good way to reduce work-related stress and can make employees feel more supported and happy in their jobs.
Set a positive example
As an employer, the way you deal with work-related stress sets an example for how your employees cope with their stress. If your employees see you eating lunch at your desk, refusing to take breaks and acting stressed all the time, they will too.
Make sure that you are setting a positive example by following the tips here to reduce job stress for everyone in the organisation.
Change your environment
Bad office environments are one of the causes of work stress, with poor design, outdated technology and bad lighting all contributing to stress.
If you have a stressed-out workforce, one thing that can help is moving to a different environment where wellbeing and happiness are a priority. Coworking spaces like us make sure our members are happy and have everything they need.
Unlike traditional office spaces, ours are social places where teams can thrive. We offer a bunch of perks such as onsite massages, wellbeing weeks, free cakes and drinks — and even dogs on demand.
Thinking of moving your team to one of our people-focused workspaces? Book a viewing today.