According to Perkbox's UK workplace stress survey, in 2020, 79% of British adults commonly experience work-related stress, which is 20% higher than the findings in 2018. The most common causes of work-related stress included 'work-related office politics' (at 37%), then a 'lack of interdepartmental communications' (at 34%) and 'the work and performance of others (at 33%). The research also revealed that 55% of respondents experience anxiety because of work stress, more than two-fifths (43%) lose sleep, and a third of respondents turn to comfort eating.
With stress having such a negative impact on employee's physical and mental wellbeing, business leaders and team leaders must understand how to manage stress in their teams and find ways to alleviate that stress.
1 – Create a healthy wellness culture
When employees feel stressed it can cloud their judgement and affect their decision-making skills, as well as their creative ability. Organisations should create a culture that encourages good mental health and wellbeing. Managers should encourage staff to leave their desks during lunchtime and go for a walk to get some fresh air, as it helps to clear the mind. Organisations can also encourage healthy wellbeing by subsiding gym memberships, hosting (in-person or virtual) yoga or Zumba sessions or even team walking activities, aiming to hit 10,000 steps a day.
2 – Build a better working environment
Organisations should try to improve the atmosphere of the workspace because it's no surprise that the working environment can impact a staff member's stress or mental health. Business leaders can make small changes, e.g. if the office environment is genuinely dull, add some colour to the walls to brighten them up. Different and bright colours are known to lift moods, so add a splash of paint to the walls to improve the atmosphere. According to Erika Woelfel, a yellow hue is sure to brighten up your workspace because it infuses energy and optimism into a room to infuse creativity.
If painting walls might be a bit difficult, add some life into the office by getting your team some plants. Indoor plants are a great addition to creating a harmonious work environment as they emit oxygen, so why not try adding an Aloe Vera plant or a Snake plant to help reduce anxiety and stress? Although if you don't have green fingers, fake plants can give the space a boost too. Make improvements to the work environment, such as organised desks and communal areas - all of which can add up to make an employee's day less stressful.
3 – Have a flexible or hybrid working culture
Employees feel more responsible when they're trusted to get on with their work when and where possible. This independence can help reduce stress levels in teams as employees can be more productive and happier working in a work environment that suits them. Research from Gartner revealed that 48% of employees are likely work remotely, at least part of the time after Covid-19.
Remember that employees have personal lives too so, sometimes this means allowing employees to work around their commitments such as school runs or family doctor appointments. Allow employees to work earlier or make up the time later in the day. This flexible approach can help them to become more productive and reduces stress about working around other commitments. Allowing people to work remotely can also help by removing the commute, as this can be a stressful activity trying to beat the traffic to get to work on time.
4 – Encourage company social activities
Employees can feel stressed when they're trying to juggle their personal and work lives, trying to keep them separate. However, not talking about employees' personal lives and understanding what's going on creates barriers. To improve communications on the team, encourage company social activities such as going for a meal or a coffee together, or doing a team sport such as football.
Everyone has different personalities and commitments outside of work. So, getting to know each other in an informal setting can help cultivate these relationships. This way, managers can work with their employees to find any solutions to alleviate stress.
5 – Allow for quiet time
Employees can become disengaged or stressed if they have back-to-back meetings. Not only is this unproductive, but some meetings are not needed. Consider doing them over email or communication platforms such as Slack or MS Teams. Also, create dedicated slots where meetings aren't allowed to take place, e.g. Wednesday afternoons. This quiet time can help employees to get in some focused time to get work done. Managers should work with their teams to understand where time is wasted and help them manage their workload to improve efficiency – overall, reducing their stress.
If budget allows, some large companies offer company benefits to help relieve stress, such as offer staff a head and neck massage or even days off due to staff burnout.
6 – Provide access to mental health and wellbeing services
Many organisations now provide access to external services such as healthcare or mental health apps to support employees. This allows employees to access virtual appointments with GPs, mental health services or wellbeing support such as nutrition.
Various factors can add up to stress for employees and having this on-demand access where employees can speak to a third-party confidentially over the phone and in personal time means more people are likely to make the most of this offer to reduce their stress.
7 – Provide training on stress management
Support staff with training that can help them pinpoint the reasons for their stress. This way, they can act on addressing it and feel much better about it. Organise activities to relieve stress, such as nature walks or playing with puppies to take their mind off things.
Stress can also be caused by poor time management and organisational skills, so if staff learn how to manage their time effectively and learn how to say no, or push back on deadlines, they are less likely to feel stressed. Managers must help staff manage their workload.
8 – Maintain transparency and encourage communication
Managers should keep team members updated about what's going on in the business because leaving people out of the loop can create a disconnect and major "FOMO" (fear of missing out). Employees feel stressed about the future of their job security if senior management doesn't communicate to the rest of the company what's happening.
Maintain frequent communications with the team and share goals and values from the top-down - this will help them understand why their work is vital. But equally as important is to encourage communication both ways. Find out if an employee needs to care for an elderly member at home or drop their children off at school. It's crucial to be respectful of one another and ensure everyone feels welcomed and recognised for their work. Communication is key to helping reducing stress in teams.
9 – Encourage plenty of sleep
While it's tempting to stay up late to have a "Netflix binge", it's not healthy. Sleep deprivation is linked to lower productivity at work. In the UK alone, it costs the economy £40.2 billion in loss of productivity and a loss of 200,000 working days a year. Employees must get enough sleep since inadequate rest can adversely affect employee physical and mental health. This is also where stress and a lack of sleep feed into each other. Employees may be unable to sleep due to feeling stressed at work or inability to concentrate and likewise, they may be unable to feel productive at work due to sleep deprivation. It's a never-ending cycle.
10 – Encourage staff to take breaks
It's vital to take breaks away from work and mentally shut down your brain from work activity. According to a study by Spana, British employees feel the need to take a break every 43 days to avoid total burnout. The top tell-take signs of a holiday being due, include feeling stressed (56%) and finding mental wellbeing is starting to suffer (53%). Therefore, encourage staff to take a holiday - even if they don't go away to another city, planned rest and recuperation time is necessary.
Hopefully, these tips can help you manage stress in your team. But, why not take our 'Managing Stress in Your Team' course to further help understand how you can improve the wellbeing of your staff? Enquire with us today to book a free demo.