The response to this year’s World Mental Health Day from companies shows the great changes there have been in the attitude towards mental health in the workplace. With the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge speaking out, it’s now becoming mainstream, and rapidly losing its taboo status.
Millions of employees are impacted by mental illness every year, but with 1 in 3 work sicknotes being mental health related it is still a massive challenge for employers. Stress has a massive financial and human cost on an organisation.
One positive way employers can improve mental health in the workplace is to identify any stress in their workplace and implement proactive wellbeing programmes to ensure stress levels are kept to a minimum.
How to spot high stress levels in your organisation
It’s in your attrition and sickness figures Stress is the biggest causes of sickness absence, under performance, low morale, increased litigation and ultimately high attrition levels. Start at the end and work backwards. High attrition figures are a sure sign of a stressful environment. Exit research data tells us that there is a discrepancy between the perceived reasons and the actual reasons people leave an organisation. When questioned, the majority of staff stated their main reasons for leaving as stress, yet it rarely makes the top five in employers’ surveys. Nothing starts a mass exodus like high stress levels.
Recognising stress The first thing a manager needs to do to reduce stress in the workplace is to recognise it from an organisational, as well as individual level. This includes knowing when and how it affects themselves because one thing is guaranteed … if you’re stressed it will have a knock-on effect.
Spot the symptoms Stress manifests itself in a variety of ways, but symptoms may include changes in behaviour… smoking or drinking more, being unable to sleep, a change in eating habits. Or you may become indecisive, lose concentration, become irritable, angry or anxious, or start feeling tired and listless. Stress can also be the underlying cause of aching muscles, headaches, stomach problems, high blood pressure and palpitations.
Lead by example It is important to ensure that on a company-wide level all possible actions are being taken to reduce work-related stress with improved work practices and management techniques. It is also important to take smaller, more immediate actions on a daily basis: encourage your staff to make small lifestyle changes and lead by example.
Invest in Wellbeing Acknowledging stress and having positive attitudes towards it in the workplace ensures an open and positive response to it. It gives people ‘permission’ to be stressed. All too often, employees are too afraid to mention the ‘S’ word in case it is treated as a sign of weakness. By taking the initiative, introducing a few simple ideas, and leading by example, you can start the attitude adjustment from the ground up. The advice may be obvious, and you may have heard it all before (excuse the pun) but it can’t be stressed enough!