International Stress Awareness Week (1-5 November)
1st November 2021
Stress is a spectrum. On one end, you have low-to-moderate stress that motivates you to do your best and drives engagement (good stress). On the other end, there is stress that consumes you, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and burnt out (bad stress). Chances are, we’ve all experienced both sides of the spectrum.
Up until recently, feeling stressed was considered a weakness, particularly in the workplace. If you were unable to handle your workload, it was considered a ‘you’ problem — one that didn’t deserve support.
This week is International Stress Awareness Week, which aims to destigmatise stress, raise awareness of the condition and explain how to prevent it. To mark the occasion, we’re sharing tips to help you manage stress at work.
The Importance of Raising Stress Awareness
We are a nation of stressed people. At some point over the past year, 74% of UK adults felt so stressed they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. Although COVID-19 undoubtedly triggered feelings of stress in many people, it was a problem long before the virus outbreak. In a separate study conducted in 2018, with 2,000 participants, 85% reported feeling stressed regularly.
Stress is just as valid a problem as any other kind of mental health issue. It can cause physical effects such as high blood pressure, aches and pains, digestive troubles and exhaustion. In addition, prolonged stress can cause life-threatening illnesses like heart disease and strokes.
In the UK, the main causes of stress are:
- Poor health
- Lack of sleep
- Pressure of household chores
By raising awareness of stress and its effects on the body, people can recognise the symptoms before they become unmanageable. Learning how to spot the signs early on is particularly important in the workplace, where stress is often expected but rarely acknowledged.
For instance, employers that require employees to work in high-stress environments with no acknowledgement of or allowances for mental health can become a toxic workplace. There needs to be a balance so that workers can look after themselves while still performing well under pressure.
How to Combat Stress at Work
1. Embrace a Culture of Openness
Arguably, the most important part of tackling stress in the workplace is addressing the culture. The best way to improve your culture is by encouraging employees to be open and honest about their mental health. Providing workers with a platform like Trickle to voice their concerns (either anonymously or not) will enable senior leaders to address stressors before they become overwhelming.
2. Show Empathy
When employees are struggling at work, it’s easy to jump to conclusions and assume the worst of them. However, it’s crucial to take the time to understand what they’re going through. By showing empathy, you can foster a culture of trust and encourage team members to seek support whenever things are getting on top of them.
3. Build a Wellness Programme
No matter how intricate or basic it is, a wellness programme is a powerful tool when it comes to combating stress at work. By making wellness a central part of the organisation, employers can boost productivity, raise morale and reduce stress.
Here are some examples of stress-busting initiatives you can include in your programme:
A health and fitness membership
An employee assistance programme (EAP)
Mental health days
Healthy food in the office
Workshops on how to de-stress
A subscription to apps like Headspace
4. Offer Flexible Working
A significant stress inducer for employees is rigorous working hours, which can affect their work-life balance. Giving employees the opportunity to work when they feel most productive and allowing them to fit household errands around their work, for example, can significantly reduce stress.
5. Lead by Example
It’s common for senior employees to keep their emotions bottled up, not admitting when work is becoming too stressful. But ignorance isn’t always bliss. Brushing stress under the carpet can set unrealistic expectations for other employees and dissuade them from getting support when they need it.
Leaders who are upfront about their stress levels and how they’re managing them shows that mental health is important and needs to be looked after.
6. Provide Chill-out Areas
If you’re back in the office, a great way to combat stress is by giving employees an area where they can take a few minutes to relax, away from their desks.
A chill-out area is a quiet room with a sofa, healthy snacks, and if you have the space, a pool table, where employees can de-stress. It doesn’t have to be much, but a calming area could go a long way to creating a lower-stress working environment.
7. Check in with Your Team Regularly
Whether it’s a face-to-face meeting or asking a question through Trickle’s MoodSense, regularly checking in with employees means leaders can recognise the signs of burnout before the pot boils over.
If you ask an employee how their stress levels are, they will probably answer that they’re normal and manageable. Ask questions such as ‘How can I help?’ and ‘What can I do to make things easier for you?’ to elicit some ideas on actions you can take instead.
Help Build a Stress-Free Working Environment with Trickle
Trickle empowers organisations to talk openly about mental health by giving employees a platform to voice their concerns, either anonymously or named.
For example, employees can offer suggestions on how to reduce stress at work and report issues before they become serious problems. Meanwhile, leaders can use these real-time insights to address workplace stressors and power their wellbeing strategies.
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By giving your people a place to voice their suggestions & concerns when they need to, you’ll inspire a happier, more productive and loyal workforce.