This year, Stress Awareness Month[i] (April) is focused on the theme of community which Adrian Lewis, Commercial Director at Activ People HR says is critical for managing stress at work and says employers can encourage their workforce community to become a network of support for employees.
The Stress Management Society who are behind the awareness day say they chose the community theme because a lack support can cause loneliness and isolation, which in turn lowers people’s wellbeing, impacts mental health and can lead to mental illness.
Adrian says, “The Covid crisis has had a negative impact on many people’s mental wellbeing. Remote working and lockdown presented challenges, people were fearful of the virus, had to support dependents or face bereavements, and are anxious about what the future holds. As we try to return to our normal working lives, other stress factors such as the rising cost of living and the impact on finances, is adding additional pressure onto an already stressed workforce.”
A study last year by insurance broker, Reassured[ii] revealed that over a third of people (37%) have found life more stressful post-pandemic than they did during the strict Covid-19 lockdowns. Over a quarter put their stress levels at a worryingly high eight out of ten with parents and millennials (aged 25-34) struggling the most at (44% and 45% respectively).
As for the causes of the stress the research found that being expected to get back to normal and not feeling ready is a challenge for one in five people, along with worries around money and financial pressures (18%) and personal health issues (18%).
Recently leaders of the NHS Confederation and the Royal College of Psychiatrists[iii] warned the UK faced a second pandemic of ‘mental health issues’ sparked by the Covid crisis.
Adrian adds, “Stress and mental health is something all employers need to be aware of and put measures in place to support workers who may be suffering. If not, it will lead to rising absence figures, which is costly and can damage performance.”
“In Stress Awareness Month, we encourage employers to look at ways they use their workplace community as a support network for employees. Encouraging conservations about mental health and promoting an open culture by allowing people to chat through any issues at the end of team meetings can be a big help.
“Also managers could have coffee mornings or Friday drinks with their team to chat about other things happening in their lives apart from work. This is a way for employees to open up if they are feeling pressure or stressed and for others to be able offer help if they can.
“Employers could also introduce absence management software which can enable managers to see patterns of behaviour such as someone always off on a Monday or an increase in sick leave – possibly an early sign someone is struggling. The software prompts return to work interviews which are an opportunity to open up a conversation around why someone has been off.
“Having a safe space to talk can enable employees to feel more comfortable bringing up concerns which in turn could be red flags that someone is suffering from stress, anxiety or even depression. Employers can then offer support or direct people to counselling or other support services such as EAPs.
“As a workplace community, we have a duty to look out for one another. Creating a supportive work culture where everyone feels able to discuss challenges can make a positive difference to someone’s mental wellbeing. This in turn leads to a happy, motivated and productive workforce which ultimately can improve business performance.”
For more information on Activ People HR visit: www.activpeoplehr.co.uk.