Victoria Bradford: How can employers identify the best stress support for their workforce?

Stress in the workplace is nothing new. In the early 1970s, it was noted by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) that there had been a significant rise in working days lost in the 1960s due to workplace stress. Fast forward to today, and Gallup’s State of the workplace 2022 report, published in July 2022, found that stress is now higher among employees than pre-pandemic. The benefits, therefore, of employers investing in alleviating the symptoms of workplace stress are undeniable: reduced absenteeism, improved productivity, and better morale all support both a healthier bottom line and employee population.

Supporting employees’ mental wellbeing is now mainstream; job adverts are awash with company-paid subscriptions to meditation apps to fully paid therapy. At Funding Circle, we connect our Circlers to therapists with Having mental health first-aiders among a workforce is a way to increase confidence in the workforce when facing mental health concerns in the workplace; according to MHFA England over four million people worldwide have been trained. However, all of these come with a cost and, therefore, they will not be appropriate for every organisation.

Many businesses are continuing to offer flexibility post-pandemic, namely the shift to hybrid working. Employers are adapting their technology ecosystem to better suit collaboration in a virtual environment; instant messaging platforms enable employees to communicate in real-time with their colleagues as they would in the office. However, these platforms can create a level of anxiety; information overload, fear of missing a message or a file, and the always ‘on’ nature can make workplace IM a source of stress within itself. Thankfully, many of the virtual collaboration platforms come with the functionality to control notifications.

At Funding Circle we are running an internal communications campaign to highlight the control tools available to Circlers, and encouraging leadership to demonstrate how to use them, in order for Slack to remain a valuable tool to our business and culture, and not a source of anxiety.

Monitoring the data from employee surveys, combined with tracking stress-related absenteeism and reasons for turnover, will identify what best works for each organisation to alleviate workplace stress. However, arguably the most important, and cost-effective, route businesses can take is by investing in training their management and leadership population. Educating this group to protect manageable workloads for their teams, offer support, and, ultimately, identify and take appropriate action against stress is the best support any business can provide its employees.

Victoria Bradford is people director, UK business and operations, at Funding Circle