Reducing stigma around workplace stress

December-Workplace Stress

With more than a quarter (28%) of employees calling in sick because of anxiety about the workplace, according to research by Adecco in November 2015, workplace stress and anxiety remains a challenging issue for employers.

Initiatives such as National Stress Awareness Day, which took place on 4 November 2015, can be harnessed by employers to raise awareness of the issue, dispel stigma and examine the role that workplace benefits, practices and environments can play in supporting staff.

To mark National Stress Awareness, web development organisation Visualsoft ran a number of initiatives to promote wellbeing in the workplace. This included offering its employees free therapeutic massages, vitamins, and flu vaccination vouchers. A total of 67 staff requested a free flu vaccination voucher and 32 received therapeutic workplace massages, which were provided by local therapists. The initiative was so successful that Visualsoft is considering making it a regular event.

Emma Hart, HR manager at Visualsoft, said: “At Visualsoft, we’ve found it’s important to reduce any stigma related to conversations and discussions about workplace stress. We have also put in place a weekly anonymous micro-survey where staff have the opportunity to give any feedback relating to any issues they might have.”

In order to increase understanding about stress in the workplace and help facilitate conversations around the issue, Visualsoft is making educational brochures and informative booklets available to its staff.

“We have found the most effective way in reducing any stigma involved in the subject is by education and open discussions. Occasionally stress comes from outside of the workplace, so at Visualsoft we encourage the use of flexible working leading to a healthier work-life balance,” added Hart.

Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at mental health charity Mind, said: “Many staff worry about opening up if they’re under unmanageable stress or experiencing a mental health problem, often because they fear that their employer doesn’t treat mental health problems as seriously as a physical health problem like back pain when it comes to needing time off sick.”

Employers can help to address attitudes towards workplace stress by establishing an open culture that encourages discussion of the issue, and by ensuring that staff are aware of the support systems in place, such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs), for example.

Mamo added: “Employers that are proactive send the message to their staff that they will be supported if they are experiencing a problem. This should encourage people to seek help sooner, potentially minimising the need for time off.”