Strategies for Employers and Employees to Create a Stress-free Workplace
National Stress Awareness Day serves as a crucial reminder of the persistent issue of stress in the modern workplace. Stress not only affects individual well-being but also has significant consequences for productivity and job satisfaction.
But what really is stress?
When we experience challenging or threatening situations our brain releases what is referred to as the ‘stress hormones’ cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones speed up the heartbeat and breathing rate which in turn prepares your muscles for a response. Under temporary circumstances, this can be advantageous for your well-being and can encourage ‘survival mode’ to help deal with dangerous situations.
However, if these elevated hormone levels are persistent and continue well beyond what is required for ‘survival’, it can have adverse effects on your overall health and cause a variety of symptoms that can affect you, such as chest and muscle pain, stomach problems, irritability, sleep, diet, hair loss and can take a toll on your mental health. This could be considered chronic stress.
The word stress is unfortunately used to encompass both short-term situational responses and long-term chronic issues, but it is important to differentiate between these. If you think you may be suffering from chronic stress, please reach out to your GP for support.
Although there are some jobs where stress can’t be escaped, let's explore some of the ways in which both employees and employers have the ability to help reduce both their own work strains and that of the people around them.
Mindfulness and Meditation: Incorporating mindfulness practices and short meditation sessions into your daily routine can help reduce tension. Simple breathing exercises can be done at your desk or during breaks, allowing you to stay focused and calm.
Time Management: Prioritising tasks, setting realistic deadlines, and avoiding procrastination can alleviate the stress caused by heavy workloads. Tools like to-do lists, calendars and time management apps can be extremely helpful.
Work-Life Balance: Maintain a healthy balance between your work and personal life. This includes leaving thoughts of work in the workplace and nurturing your well-being with hobbies, exercise, and quality time with loved ones. Being able to switch off from work is key!
Effective Communication: Open and honest communication with colleagues, supervisors and Managers can help resolve issues and make the work environment more pleasant. Discuss concerns, seek clarification, and provide feedback constructively.
Physical Activity: Regular exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. Even a short walk during lunch breaks can do wonders for your short-term stress levels.
Promote Flexibility: Offering flexible work hours or remote work options (where it’s practical) can empower employees to better manage their personal and professional lives. This flexibility can reduce the pressures associated with rigid work schedules.
Wellbeing Initiatives: Implement stress management programmes, workshops, or seminars relating to employee wellbeing. These can provide employees with tools and techniques to handle work-related stress effectively and can also act as a team-building exercise.
Healthy Work Environment: A clean, organised, and comfortable workspace can enhance employee well-being. Consider ergonomically designed furniture and provide access to natural light and greenery. Ask your employees what works for them.
Training and Development: Invest in training and development opportunities for your staff. When employees feel they are growing in their roles, they are less likely to experience demotivation associated with stagnation.
Recognition and Appreciation: Acknowledge and reward your employees' hard work. A simple 'thank you' or an employee recognition programme can boost morale.
Mental Health Support: Offer mental health resources, such as access to counselling or Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Reducing the stigma around mental health can make employees more comfortable seeking help.
Clear Communication Channels: Foster a culture of open communication by encouraging feedback, listening to concerns, and providing clear and transparent information about company changes or policies. Employees will feel more motivated and happier when they know they are valued.
National Stress Awareness Day reminds us of the importance of addressing stress in the working environment. Both employees and employers have a role to play. By incorporating mindfulness, effective communication, and time management into their routines, employees can better manage work-related stress. Employers can contribute by offering flexibility, promoting a healthy work environment, and supporting their employees' mental health.
Together, employees and employers can build workplaces where stress is reduced promoting happier, more productive employees and fostering a positive company culture.