The risk of physical illness or distress is a product of a stressful working environment and lack of stress management. When people work in extremely stressful situations, they experience irreparable health damage. While we can refer to workplace rules and regulations that provide guidelines for risk assessment of physical hazards, it’s hard to find a document that addresses the risks of occupational stress or psychosocial hazards.
April is Stress Awareness Month, which puts special emphasis on public awareness of both the cures and causes of the modern stress epidemic. As a business owner, manager, or leader, how do you help your people cope with stress?
Job-related stress is a global phenomenon. According to Gallup Poll, 80% of workers experience some type of stress on the job. And more than half wanted to learn how to deal with it. We understand some work stress is normal and natural. However, chronic and extreme pressures seriously impact the health of workers, making it difficult for them to stay fully productive.
If we look at studies, we will find that chronic work stress is as bad for your health as smoking or inactivity. When you or your employees experience prolonged job stress, it led to health complications like high blood pressure, chronic pain, and a weak immune system.
A survey exploring the employee experience with work stress found that three-quarters of workers experience high levels of stress.
In this post, we will dig deep into what is workplace stress management, how companies can manage stress, what causes work stress, what measures companies can take to reduce stress, and the role of managers in handling stress and the risks associated with it.
Here is how HSE defines work-related stress:
'The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them'.
We often feel stressed when we can’t cope with an issue. Employees, similarly, feel stressed when they are unable to handle pressures. For example, when you hire the wrong people that don’t have the required skills to get the job done, they will eventually end up being stressed and unable to perform. Sometimes people feel stressed when they are unable to meet deadlines.
Another important factor to consider here is the varying ability of human beings to handle stress. One thing stressful for one person might not affect another. Factors like age, skills, experience, and capabilities may determine how an employee copes with a situation.
So, what makes people feel stressed at work? Here are some common elements that contribute to work stress:
We can add more to this list. But these are the leading factors that contribute to work-related stress. If you’re assigning work more than what your employees can handle, it will create stress. If you fail to develop an inclusive work environment, certain people in your team will feel ignored. Likewise, if your employees feel insecure in terms of their jobs, they will end up feeling stressed.
These are the factors you should be focusing on and comparing your performance against other organizations. Determine whether or not you’re doing enough to address these issues. A systematic risk assessment process will make things easier for you. Also, it’s something more than a survey. Once issues have been identified, you must take concrete actions to reduce the impact.
When we say “stress policy”, it covers many important aspects of your business. Stress management is just one of them. Work-related stress, harassment, bullying, or mobbing are now considered major occupational challenges.
One out of three workers in Europe reports that their lives are affected by work-related stress. Like other mental health problems, stress is often misunderstood. It becomes more manageable when you start treating it as an organizational issue and not just an individual fault.
So, should you have a “stress policy” that effectively deals with invisible workplace hazards like stress? Here are some stats that will answer this question:
Considering these alarming stats, it’s crystal clear that you need to have a sound stress policy to address these workplace issues. The policy usually involves identifying stressors and risk assessment.
We talk a lot about stress in our daily lives. But we hardly understand what it is and how to manage it. Stress is described as a reaction to a situation. We often feel stressed when the demands of a situation are greater than our ability and resources. For example, one of your employees who isn’t confident in their skills will feel stressed when asked to give a tough presentation.
Nonetheless, stress isn’t all about a lack of skills or resources. Our behavior toward certain social issues can also make people feel stressed. For instance, discrimination against minorities can make them feel undervalued and unnecessary.
But the question is how to manage stress or how to make your employees feel comfortable with what they need to do. Chronic stress makes employees believe that there is nothing much they can do to improve their situation. That’s where we need to promote how stress can be managed, both at the individual and organizational levels.
Stress management is a practice of effectively managing stress in many different ways. It may include strategies that address stress psychologically and physically to help people develop coping skills and resilience.
As a manager or business owner, it’s important for you to help your people handle stress. While workers often dismiss suggestions from the HR department, it’s important to understand that HR professionals can play a positive role in this regard and create a verifiable impact on the health of employees and the company. You can work directly with your staff and handle their concerns to ensure a productive and healthy workplace.
Here are some proven strategies to prepare your people to handle stress in positive ways:
Regularly check in with your staff to see how they’re doing. The first thing you should do to help your employees manage stress is to understand what bothers them. If you’re not sure what causes the problem, you can’t come up with a solution. So, take some time and talk to your people about everything from their daily routine to job satisfaction.
It would be a good idea to have a company-wide meeting where you allow your people to express themselves without hesitation. Let them talk about their grievances. Of course, people are often reluctant to express such feelings, but you should try.
An anonymous survey is also a good idea to learn what your employees really think about their job and the company.
With so much uncertainty and negativity coming from the news, your employees can easily get stressed. One way to manage stress is mindfulness and meditation. Taking a few minutes each day and performing these exercises can have a positive impact on your workplace.
If you’re unable to hire a professional business coach to train employees on mindfulness, encourage them to use apps and the internet to find as much information as they could. Mindfulness practices bring clarity to their minds and help them focus on the task at hand.
Going outside is good for you and your employees’ health. It can do wonders for mental health. Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic has made it difficult for us to have such activities. But things will get back to normal soon.
Working continuously without breaks is not good for your people. So, allow them to have a quick company walk and get some fresh air. If your team is too busy to go out for a moment, take your own nature walk and bring your staff with you.
As gyms and fitness studios begin to reopen, you should consider providing incentives to those willing to join a gym or yoga studio. Needless to mention that exercise is greatly beneficial to your body and mind. No matter your position in an organization, you must have a fitness plan for yourself as well as for your people.
If your employees think of your workplace as a threat, then you can’t build good relationships with them.
The subject of workplace stress becomes even more important at times when companies are struggling to deal with uncertainties associated with Covid-19. The current global health crisis has only added to work stress.
You have a chance right now to reduce work-related stress and manage the risks associated with it. Of course, burnout is preventable, and you should do everything in your capacity to do so. All you need is a well-thought-out employee well-being strategy. Introduce resilience training and mindfulness classes. Use technology wherever you can to automate your business processes and minimize risk.
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