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What employers can do to reduce workplace stress for the good of their teams

9 May 2018 By Michael Hartland

Stress Awareness Month might be over, but that doesn’t mean businesses can forget about wellbeing, says Michael Hartland

If your organisation is affected by stress-related problems, there’s a strong chance that employee wellbeing and business performance might be affected. A recent UK study found that 12.5 million business days were lost because of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016-17. Getting on top of this is an important – albeit challenging – mission; taking steps to reduce stress will result in a happier workforce, fewer working days lost to illness and improved overall performance. Here are five suggestions to use in your workplace.

Exercise

Getting endorphins racing around the body is a fantastic way of reducing stress. Even if employees at your organisation are mainly office-based, that’s no reason to be stuck to a chair all day.

Try promoting walking meetings – get your colleagues together and have a stroll around the building. If you can get outdoors to do so in the fresh air, even better. Employees will find the change of scenery and active nature inspires new perspectives and fresh thinking.

Take a break

One of the fastest ways of reducing stress is to remove yourself from the stressful situation, however temporarily, so encourage your staff to take breaks regularly. This is where tools like desktop tickers are useful for sending reminders to staff to ‘stretch your legs, take a break, check your posture’ etc. It’s simple but effective – suddenly you’ll find colleagues sitting up straighter and breathing better.

Give back control

A common cause of stress is not feeling in control. When employees feel they have no control over the nature or demands of their job, this can cause feelings of helplessness and increased stress. Reasserting control over parts of a job, however small, is a helpful step. Give your staff the flexibility to look for ways they can tailor tasks or processes to their own preferred working style.

If they’re still new in a role, they’ve likely inherited modes of working from their predecessor. They may not be able to change what they do, but they’ll appreciate the ability to take control over the way they do it.

Take the workforce’s temperature

Sometimes an employer simply won’t be aware of stress-related issues in their organisation. Employees often internalise their concerns, or speak of them only to close friends.

Astute employers will take a workplace ‘temperature check’ to identify issues with stress before they result in staff illness or impact on productivity. Run an anonymous survey to keep your finger on the pulse of your workplace, without being obtrusive. For staff, this provides an opportunity to call out any concerns in a safe, non-threatening way.

Offer support

Many employers won’t have in-house expertise to address employee concerns related to stress. It’s a complex and serious issue, which many managers will feel ill-equipped to handle. Fortunately, dedicated agencies are available that specialise in support and workplace counselling. Engage with an agency you feel comfortable with, ensure all staff are aware of the service, and include it in your induction training for new team members.

Michael Hartland works at internal communication tools provider SnapComms

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