Top 10 Tips to Reduce Employee Stress

14th to 20th May 2018 marked the Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health Awareness week and this years’ theme was stress. Whilst Mental Health Awareness week may have passed, stress is something employers should bear in mind year-round. According to the Samaritans, ‘work’ is cited as the number one cause of stress in the UK. A survey carried out by Mind, a mental health awareness charity, in 2013 noted of more than 2000 people surveyed:-

• One in five (19 per cent) take a day off sick because of stress, but 90 per cent of those people cited a different reason for their absence.
• One in ten (9 per cent) have resigned from a job due to stress and one in four (25 per cent) have considered resigning due to work pressure.
• One in five (19 per cent) felt they couldn’t tell their boss if they were overly stressed.
• Of the 22 per cent who have a diagnosed mental health problem, less than half (10 per cent) had actually told their boss about their diagnosis.
• Over half of managers (56 per cent) said they would like to do more to improve staff mental wellbeing but they needed more training and/ or guidance and 46 per cent said they would like to do more but it is not a priority in their organisation.

Clearly, stress is a big issue for employees and employers alike.

But what can you do?

Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to stress at work, and to help we have put together our Top 10 Tips to reduce your employees’ stress.

Lead by example

Remember the old adage “get in before your boss, don’t leave until they do”? Many people, young people starting out in their careers in particular look to their line manager and emulate their behaviour at work. As a result, more and more companies are developing a ‘stay late’ culture where staff feel that they need to put in very long hours or they’ll be viewed as slackers.

Remember that as the boss you are responsible for establishing the workplace culture and a culture of long hours and little work/life balance is one which is likely to elevate you staff’s stress levels. Lead by example by leaving the office on time and have a life outside of work.

Waste time

According to a survey carried out by Earnest and Young in 2014, the average employee ‘wastes’ 14.2 per cent of their working day – but the fact of the matter is that humans are not designed to sit at a desk and work for 8 solid hours. Not only are your staff entitled to rest breaks under the Working Time Regulations but encouraging your staff to take breaks will not only help to promote their mental wellbeing, but studies have shown that people work best in 90-minute windows broken up by 20-minute breaks – so encouraging staff to ‘waste’ some time in their work day may also make your workforce more productive!

Listen to your staff

Many employees admit that they wouldn’t tell their boss if they were feeling stressed, so it may be up to you to do some stealthy investigation.
Listen to your staff when they talk to you. Are they genuinely complaining about a colleague not doing their fair share, or are they trying to tell you that they feel overwhelmed and unable to cope? Managers should also be given training on recognising and dealing with stress.

And don’t just tell your staff you have an ‘open door policy’ – actually follow through with it! Listen to your staff, be open minded and offer solutions where you can. Just knowing that they have a boss who is compassionate and will listen will often be enough to reduce employees’ stress – or for them to feel comfortable telling you when there is an issue.

Set clear goals

Many employees’ biggest complaint is about not knowing where they stand, or not having a clear direction for their career. So be clear with your staff and set measured and achievable goals.

Reward your staff

Feeling undervalued in the workplace is often a reason cited as to why employees feel stressed. Recognition of an employees’ achievements can prevent that feeling of being undervalued.

Recognition doesn’t always need to be financial (though very few employees would turn down a bonus!); consider providing regular feedback – and remember to compliment as well as criticise. You would be surprised how far a recognition of an employees’ hard work will go to make them feel happy and valued.

Consider flexible working

Flexible working is becoming increasingly popular as employees seek to achieve a better work/life balance. Considering adjustments to working arrangements or working hours can help your staff better balance their commitments at work and home.

But there are benefits for the company too! Flexible working can help prevent a employee who is stressed from becoming an employee suffering from chronic stress (which could be a disability). Also, as the survey by Mind revealed, almost 10% of people have resigned from a job due to stress, so allowing flexible working may help to retain staff. Finally, as flexible working becomes more attractive to a younger generation seeking a better work/life balance, offering flexible working could help you attract a better quality of candidate in future.

Spruce up your workplace

Working in a pleasant environment can do wonders for a person’s mental wellbeing. There isn’t much you can do in terms of your building or office’s layout, and we aren’t suggesting that you go to the expense of redecorating (unless you want to). However, a little can go a long way, maybe add some plants or hang some artwork. Even encouraging a workplace which is clean and tidy may help to reduce stress and anxiety.

Explain the ‘why’

Much like dealing with a four-year-old, being constantly asked ‘why’ your employee is doing their job can be extremely frustrating. However, there may be times where stress is inevitable. These situations, such as an extremely busy period or pulling-out-all-the-stops-to-correct-a-mistake-before-we-get-sued, are usually temporary. So, explain that to your staff! Tell them that you understand the pressure that they are under, and how it will ultimately help your customers or the company or even the staff themselves. Sometimes simply understanding the ‘why’ behind a stressful situation can help an employee to cope with it.

Sort out your resources

Even the ‘easiest’ of jobs can feel impossible if your staff don’t have the tools and equipment they need to do their jobs. Giving staff what they need (from stocking the stationary cupboard to arranging training on a new product) can make all the difference.

Manage absences and get people back to work

Time off for stress is inevitable. Even if you have ticked off numbers 1-9 above and are doing everything you can, stress is a fact of life. Maybe your staff member is dealing with a stressful period at work on top of a difficult time at home. Maybe the employee has an underlying mental health condition. Either way, managing absences and using appropriate health services, such as occupational health or Fit For Work to get employees back into the workplace, and by having appropriate ‘back to work’ procedures, such as back to work interviews you can help prevent ‘sickness absence for stress’ from becoming a serious long term issue.

If you have any queries about stress at work, flexible working or anything else raised in this article, please get in touch with Charlotte Braham in the Employment Department on charlotte.braham@allanjanes.com or 01494 893529.

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