If there could be a silver lining to the current pandemic, it is the fact that work related stress and poor mental health is finally being treated with the same significance as risks of physical health and injury. Stress is the number one cause of employee absence in the UK, so beyond their legal obligations or any altruistic visions, there is a strong business case for employers of all sizes to find simple and practical tools to manage stress in the workplace and mitigate the impact it has on employee performance.
However, without a background in mental health, such as counseling or psychology, many managers, directors and business owners do not feel equipped to tackle stress in their workplaces and even fear being ‘duped’ by employees. Unlike most physical injuries, stress can seem subjective and hard to define. When we started working with companies 30 years ago, stress was heavily stigmatized: we regularly heard managers describe it as a weakness or as ‘the new back ache’, a way for lazy people to swing the lead. People didn’t want to admit they were stressed and managers didn’t want to deal with it. Consequently, stress would go unrecognized and unaddressed, leading to poor physical and mental health for many employees, including the managers themselves, and negatively impacting work performance and the profitability of businesses.
We bring over 20 years of using simple, yet highly effective tools for personal stress management. We equip managers with practical ways to respond to stress in their teams. Clients always report seeing people using the tools from day one, as openly managing stress suddenly becomes the thing to do, not something that is stigmatized. When training is across an organization, the shared understanding and experience often has an additional team-building benefit too.
Managing stress in the workplace is most effective when it is approached from both a structural and personal perspective:
Working with management to recognize signs of stress within themselves and their teams, as well as identifying the causes within the workplace that trigger stress, and then giving them the tools to respond appropriately.
Empowering employees to recognize and respond to stress within themselves, teaching them to use fight or flight to help, not harm them, as well as understanding ways they could be unintentionally making things worse; then taking action and seeking help before stress becomes dangerous to their health.
Auditing sources of stress within the organization to better understand the risks.
These three things combined create a culture of managing stress that promotes mental health and wellbeing and builds a stronger, more resilient organization.