Employers have a legal responsibility to recognise and deal with stress in the workplace so that employees do not become physically or mentally ill as a result. The responsibility falls on the managers within a company, as they serve as the team leaders that work closely with the staff members. In this respect they are acting as the eyes and ears of their employer.
It is important to tackle the causes of stress in the workplace as stress at work can lead to problems for the individual and their working relationships, as well as the overall working environment. Not only does an individual's stress have an impact on them, but the business could also suffer from an increase in customer complaints, regular staff turnover creating instability and days lost to sickness. This highlights how stress management in the workplace needs to be taken seriously by everyone, as ignoring it could be detrimental for the business.
Areas of the Workplace that Should be Monitored by Manager to Assess Stress Levels
Demands – This includes issues such as workload, their working patterns as well as their working environment.
Control – The level of control you give your team when it comes to the way they do their work.
Support - The encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by managers for their team.
Relationships - Promoting a positive working environment avoids conflict and deals with unacceptable behaviour.
Role – Make sure your team knows what their role is within the organisation to ensure they have clarity in their position, preventing them from being 'stretched too thin' due to conflicting responsibilities.
Change - How you manage and implement organisational changes has a massive impact on your team.
Signs of Stress
By managers knowing what to look out for, it means that problems can be dealt with quickly. It could even mean that risks avoid becoming incidents in the first place through reducing the impact of pressure, preventing issues from getting bad.
If managers are worried that an employee is showing some of these signs, they should encourage them to see their GP. These signs can be symptoms of other conditions. If there is something wrong at work, and this has caused the problem, managers should act.
Signs of stress in teams:
• Higher staff turnover
• More reports of stress
• More sickness absence
• Decreased performance
• More complaints and grievances
Signs of stress in an employee:
A change in the way someone acts can be a sign of stress. For example, they may:
• Take more time off
• Arrive for work later
• Be more twitchy or nervous
A change in the way someone thinks or feels can also be a sign of stress - for example:
• Mood swings
• Being withdrawn
• Loss of motivation, commitment and confidence
• Increased emotional reactions – being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive
Employees should also try and look after their own stress levels at work and recognise when they need to speak up about a problem. If you think you have a problem, talk to your manager, a colleague or your GP.
What can Employers do to Reduce Stress in the Workplace?
There are several stress management techniques that can work for your business:
Address known issues: If you know there's an issue that's creating stress, find a way to fix it. This is easier said than done, but it cannot be ignored. If you don't do what you can to give your employees a healthy, low-stress work environment, you're going to suffer from low productivity as a result.
Training programs: Training is a strategic place to start, and it also helps you and your organisation prioritise stress management as an ongoing initiative.
Wellness Programs and Initiatives: Wellness programs benefit the business in many ways, one of which can be to reduce stress in the office. These campaigns can focus on the potential causes of stress and teach people how to deal with them effectively. This could include everyday things like working to deadlines or traffic congestion. As well as this, exercise can help reduce stress too, highlighting how companies can use health initiatives to combat the problem (though this isn't to say a morning run is going to be everyone's cup of tea!).
Stress will always be present in the workplace and can never be entirely eliminated because a healthy amount of stress leads to productivity and creativity. However, there's a fine line, and when employees become too stressed, it takes a toll on them personally, as well as the overall health of the company. To make sure you have a happy, healthy, and engaged workforce, stress management is a must.