Stress is something that happens to all of us, and in small doses, it can be beneficial and even motivating. However, when it becomes overwhelming, stress can have a detrimental impact on both mental and physical wellbeing.
Stress can often be overlooked when it comes to workplace health and safety, but it is the leading cause of work-related ill-health in the UK. The HSE reported that in 2020/21, work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill-health, costing the UK economy around £26 billion.
Factors leading to work-related stress:
According to the HSE, there are a few main areas that can lead to work-related stress:
Demands – The first stress-causing factor is demands, as employees may experience stress if they are unable to cope with their workload, work patterns or work environment.
To reduce the impact of demands, staff should be encouraged to make a to-do list and communicate with their line manager if their workload becomes overwhelming. Management should also be encouraged to set realistic demands for the agreed hours of work. Holding regular 1-1 or team meetings will further provide employees with an opportunity to voice any concerns they have.
Control – The next common cause of stress is employees not feeling as though they have control over how they complete their work, including the environment they work in.
The HSE recommends that employees are given reasonable control over the way their work is completed. This may include working from home some days or having the option to take lunch breaks at a chosen time. In addition, employees should be given control over their pace of work where possible e.g., having a say in when they take their breaks.
Support – Employees can begin to feel stressed if they feel that they do not receive adequate information and support from their colleagues and superiors. This includes clear job roles, encouragement and resources required to complete their duties.
To prevent this, organisations should have procedures in place to ensure employees are appropriately supported, such as via regular support meetings. Employees should also be made aware of the support systems available. Some organisations have employee assistance programmes (EAPs) that offer free advice and counselling, or internal support systems such as a buddy system.
Relationships – A lack of positive relationships at work can further contribute to stress. To create a positive working environment employers should deal with unacceptable behaviour in the workplace as a priority, as well as implementing a process to deal with individual concerns.
Organisations can support positive relationships by hosting social events such as seasonal parties – activities outside of work will help employees to develop friendships, personal relationships and aid team working. Employees should also be encouraged to connect with others outside of work – this network will provide support and comfort as talking through things with another person can often help individuals to resolve their problems.
Reducing workplace stress
No matter how stressful your job is, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your overall stress levels and regain a sense of control at work. Here are our top tips:
- Establish boundaries
- Organise some ‘me time’ outside of work
- Take short breaks throughout the day
- Eat healthy and nutritious foods
- Start or increase exercise
- Get enough sleep
If you are experiencing overwhelming stress at work, it is important that you talk to a supervisor or a manager that you trust. If you do not communicate how you feel, then your employers may not realise that changes need to be made.