Top strategies to help create a stress-free workplace for your employees

Business Insights

Preventing, minimising and managing stress in the workplace is essential to create a positive working environment and help your employees thrive. Not only is stress responsible for sickness absence and loss of productivity, it has some unpleasant side effects for the individual experiencing it, and if ignored can lead to poor mental health. According to the HSE, 17.9 million days were lost due to work-related ill health as a result of stress, depression or anxiety. This resulted in an absence of 21.6 days off work for each person suffering. These figures were increasing, even before COVID, so it is clear that businesses need to implement some significant measures to help address this issue.

Over the last year alone, there have been many work-related stress factors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. All employees, including key workers, homeworkers and furloughed staff, have suffered a great deal of stress. Whether from fear of catching the virus in the workplace, risk of redundancy, lack of fulfilling work, unmanageable workloads or the pressure of homeworking, stress has been very real for everyone. Whilst organisations haven’t been able to control the COVID pandemic, they are able to support their employees and strive to achieve a stress-free workplace. Here are our top four considerations for reducing stress in the workplace.

Complete a stress risk assessment

Employers are legally obliged to look after their employees’ health and safety in the workplace, and this includes minimising the risk of stress-related ill health. Excessive workloads, unrealistic deadlines and lack of managerial support are all causes of workplace stress. Complete a stress risk assessment to help identify the causes of stress in your workplace and implement appropriate control measures to manage it. Talking to your employees will help you understand when they feel pressure, which could result in stress. Whilst it is important for employees to be able to successfully meet the demands of their role, it is important that they sometimes feel positively challenged and can keep developing. Creating a stress risk assessment will really help develop a greater picture of what stress might look like for employees within your organisation, which may have changed over the course of the last year due to COVID-19.

Provide workplace training

It is not uncommon for employees to avoid disclosing when they feel stressed at work, but encouraging these open conversations will help promote a positive culture where employees are confident that their concerns will be listened to and they will be supported. Part of building this culture comes from educating employees about recognising the signs of stress, providing them with effective coping strategies and helping them to recognise when they are feeling overwhelmed. There’s plenty of online mental health and wellbeing training available that can be a great starting point for creating a workplace where your employees build their resilience skills, learn to manage their anxiety and become more aware of their stress levels and mental health. Deloitte found that, on average, for every £1 employers invest in the mental health and wellbeing of their employees, they receive £5 in return, presenting a strong business case for organisation-wide support in the form of training, online portals, mental health first aiders and counselling, for example.

Promote communication

Maintaining human connections has been a particular challenge during COVID-19, and as a result the world turned to virtual communications almost overnight. Whilst there is a place for virtual communications, it presents an additional challenge in keeping your team connected. For example, in the workplace it is easier to see when a colleague is struggling, or to have an informal chat with one another and talk through concerns. These interactions help create stronger bonds within the team, which can be lost while everyone is apart. However virtual team building exercises can help develop employee relationships. It can be as simple as a virtual coffee break together or an online quiz to encourage interaction. These small things can help build team morale and give everyone a much-needed boost to their mood. Staff are more likely to ask for support from a colleague when they are stressed or need some help if they feel at ease with their team.

Keep the conversation going

Get into the habit of checking in regularly with your staff about their stress levels and provide resources, tips and share ideas with staff about how to reduce stress and lead a healthy lifestyle. Not sure where to start, then download our mental health whitepaper here.

The effects of the last year on people’s mental health has been profound and it is not going to be resolved overnight. Organisations have a real opportunity to play a crucial role in building their employees back up and protecting their mental health.