Keeping stress levels to a minimum

Monitoring your employees’ stress levels is probably not likely to be at the top of your business’ list of priorities – but being supportive and helping your employees deal with stress can reduce absenteeism and improve employee retention.

Today is National Stress Awareness Day. The World Health Organisation says that between 1993 and 2013 the number of people with stress, depression or anxiety grew by almost half to 615 million people worldwide.

Now in 2017, we have seen an unprecedented increase in focus on mental health issues and removing the stigma attached to them. In the UK, there were more than 480,000 new cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety reported between 2015 and 2016 as a result of this increased awareness.

Work–life balance is often cited as one of the more common reasons for suffering with stress, so it should be the first thing to consider when making changes that may affect life both inside and outside the office.

There should be at least one person in your workforce responsible for taking the lead on stress management and it is now a legal requirement to have support in place to assist in lowering stress levels in the workplace. You can also include a section in your health and wellbeing policy that covers stress management and mental health and carry out suitable assessments of stress levels in your workforce.

Health Shield has often looked at the signs of stress and how to reduce them, but often the toll they take can be much worse than you first realise.

Stopping it in the workplace is the first and most important thing to do.

Someone with stress may initially appear irritable and begin to underperform, but over time they can begin to become anxious about even being at work and they and their colleagues may notice their stress levels increasing even more. Having the support in place to tackle it early on shows that you are protecting your employees and can improve your company’s productivity at the same time.

If your employees continue to suffer with long-term stress, they may end up suffering from more serious health problems later on, including heart rate and blood pressure issues, digestive problems and a weakened immune system. Without help, what begins as a stress problem can quickly escalate into something much worse. Stress hormones can make their way around the body and divert the blood supply causing breathing difficulties, heart rate and blood pressure to rise and the effectiveness of other important bodily functions to decrease. This is why many people suffering with stress will also find that they suffer with stomach pains or digestive problems.

Introducing a mindfulness plan into your company’s wellbeing strategy can also prove effective – it teaches your employees how to deal with the causes and effects of stress and how best to face them and reach their end goal. This can also include yoga, massage and general relaxation techniques.

It is important to remember that not all causes of stress are external. Sometimes it can be internal and nothing to do with work, but as work is where we spend a large proportion of our lives, this is where it is noticed most often and where it can have the biggest influence. Sometimes it’s the commute to the office and the constant thinking about what needs to be done when they get home, as well as the pressures of the office, that contribute to an employee’s stress.

Everyone has a different tipping point which is the moment they begin to feel the effects of stress and lose productivity and what constitutes stress can vary for each individual, so it is important not to judge those around you about their causes of stress. What you might find stressful may not affect them, and likewise you may think their major stress events are minor. The important thing is to be aware of the triggers and not to ignore the warning signs.

Having fun is a major antidote to stress levels – try encouraging your employees to focus on themselves at home, even if it’s just a small hobby they might have. Ensuring they also have some form of fun and adventure in the workplace can also help. Even if they don’t think they want to take part, or that they don’t have the time to, the best thing they can do is to smile! Some people may also find cognitive behavioural therapy beneficial – if this is covered on your Health Shield Health Cash Plan then pointing your employees in the right direction may have positive results all round.

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Helping your employees to increase their exercise levels will also have a positive impact on their stress levels. While you will find that everyone’s fitness goals or regimes are different, even just a brisk walk at lunch time will help to reduce stress and over time your employee’s will find that they are comfortable walking further, increasing their pace or you may even find that they take up running in their own time.

Did you know?

  • Stress is the body’s way of preparing for danger
  • Stress symptoms can be both physical and psychological
  • It is easy to self-care for stress – simply do those little things that help you relax such as a gentle stroll, a relaxing bath or reading a book
  • Allowing yourself some ‘me time’ helps to eliminate the initial feelings of stress
  • A messy desk affects stress levels
  • One in five people have taken a day off work due to stress
  • One in four people consider resigning due to stress