Why managing stress effectively can boost employee wellbeing

On National Stress Awareness Day, Matt Weston explains how examining processes and practices can be the first step to reducing the strain on your staff

Today is National Stress Awareness Day, which comes as a timely reminder on the importance of wellbeing for employers up and down the country. While stress is a normal part of working life, excess stress can impact performance and productivity, relationships in the office and employee health.

Employers need to explore how they can alleviate unnecessary stress in the workplace. By doing so, they will create a workforce which is happier, more engaged and efficient in their work. Easing the pressure on employees will also ultimately lead to greater job satisfaction.

There are four key areas employers should examine:

Internal processes

There are a number of internal processes that cause unnecessary stress. If employees are racing against the clock to submit work ahead of an urgent deadline, the last thing they need is to be pulled away from their work for an unnecessary meeting.

Employers should consider the value of certain meetings. Is there another format this communication can be delivered in? In certain instances, new technology can improve communication and encourage idea-sharing throughout the company. Some popular cross-platform applications include Skype for Business, Google Hangouts, Slack, Asana and Trello.

As part of this review process, employers should also consider the number of people attending and whether it only requires a few key individuals. The meeting itself should also run smoothly and efficiently. A clear purpose with an agenda is half the battle and will reassure employees the meeting is necessary and worth their time.

Workplace culture

Culture is often the hidden piece of the jigsaw. Employees tend to follow their employer’s habits, so bosses should take time to consider if they are setting a bad example with poor working practices. Are they always staying late at the office? Do they send department-wide emails on weekend mornings? When was the last time they took annual leave? 

Linked to leadership habits, some employees may be afraid to speak up about feeling overworked, worried they’ll be seen as not able to handle their job. Employers must create a forgiving working environment where workers who are under intense strain and stress feel they can raise their hand and receive support.

Wellness initiatives

To help promote employee wellbeing, many businesses are beginning to implement flexible working hours or remote working. This can be an effective way to encourage a healthy work-life balance and the option to work from home one or two days a week can really benefit people who have childcare or family commitments.

Employee health is equally vital. In winter, hosting on-site flu jab clinics offers a convenient way to make sure employees are vaccinated to reduce the number of sick days. Taking this one step further, companies can also host health screenings that might identify risks involving smoking, weight, blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and diet.

Linked to this is what employers offer their staff on a daily basis. While they should avoid regulating what workers eat and drink, they can encourage good nutrition by offering healthy food choices, such as fresh fruit, at company meetings and in the kitchen.

Employers should encourage their staff to remain fit and active. For example, they could encourage them to start a lunchtime walking or running group. Meanwhile, offering free or discounted gym memberships, massages or exercise classes can also work wonders for workplace wellbeing.

Hiring practices

In certain sectors, such as accounting and finance, employees come under more strain than usual at specific periods, such as the end of the tax year. 

If employers are committed to reducing workplace stress for their employees, they should be proactive about providing them with extra support when they need it. If possible, they should use their budget to augment the core team with temporary support workers during peak periods. For example, it is common practice in compliance departments to hire a consultant or project manager to lead work on a certain piece of new regulation for a period of a few months.

Ultimately, not all stress is bad. But by helping staff maintain the right balance between pressure and productivity, employers will reap the reward in the form of a team that has a positive attitude and gets more done.

Matt Weston is UK managing director of Robert Half