Why Should Managers be Concerned with Work-Related Stress?
Managers have a legal responsibility to look after the wellbeing of their team to avoid them becoming physically or mentally ill as a result of work-related stress. They are responsible due to their position as team leader of a group of people. Their close work with the staff members means that they are able to spot problems when they arise and create a positive working environment to avoid stress becoming an issue in the first place.
Ignoring the problem won't make it go away because stress at work can lead to serious issues for the individual in question and their working relationships, as well as the overall working day. Not only does an individual's stress have an impact on them, but the business could suffer too. This could be in the form of an increase in customer complaints, regular staff turnover and days lost to sickness causing instability. The problems with stress aren't simply someone's personal issues that can be swept under the carpet during the working day - everyone is affected. Stress management in the workplace needs to be taken seriously by everyone.
Causes of Stress in the Workplace
Stress can be caused by a number of factors, and with over half a million workers suffering from work-related stress, the problem isn't going away anytime soon. From heavy workloads and over-promotion to bullying and blame culture, stress is caused in the professional environment, whatever the industry.
Some common causes of stress in the workplace include:
- Ridiculous workloads with unrealistic deadlines can make people feel rushed, under pressure and overwhelmed, and can often lead to a quality of work that is below average, which can of course lead to further stress due to pressures from managers and employers.
- To counteract this, an insufficient workload can also lead to stress because it can make employees feel that their skills are being underused.
- A lack of control over work activities can lead workers to feel powerless, and things can get out of hand as a result.
- Poor working relationships can cause people to quickly feel isolated. Remember, we spend the majority of our time at work, so if you lack a social side to the working day, it can all start to feel like a very empty and quiet place to be - both feelings that have a very negative affect on our mental health.
- People being asked to do a job for which they have insufficient experience or training for can lead to them trying to do something they're incapable of, and as a result they can end up feeling like a failure. There is a difference between pushing yourself, and stressing out by trying to achieve something completely out of reach.
- Change can bring stress, and this could come from a promotion. Although it is seen as a positive step up in the professional ladder, a lot of problems can be caused by meeting the new role's requirements and adapting to changes in relationships with colleagues.
- Concerns about job security, lack of career opportunities, or level of pay can bubble away under the surface of an employee over a considerable period of time, leaving them with a constant level of stress.
- Bullying or harassment can seem like something you leave behind in school, but this can sadly be just as frequent in the workplace. Although adults don't like to admit it, bullying hurts whatever your age, and can quickly leave people stressed and wanting to avoid work all together!
- A blame culture is when something goes wrong and the finger starts pointing. This can lead to people being afraid to get things wrong or to admit to making mistakes, which can cause people to work to their best ability, up to a certain extent, but this tactic can easily go too far.
- Weak or ineffective management can leave employees feeling they don't have a sense of direction or support. Equally, over-management can leave employees feeling undervalued and affect their self-esteem by working under someone that micro-manages everything.
- Failure to keep employees informed about significant changes to the business can cause them to feel out of the loop, and uncertain about their future as a result.
How can Managers Combat Work-Related Stress?
There are stress management techniques that can work for your business to help create a healthy workforce.
Address any known issues: If you know that there's something that's creating stress, find a way to fix it. This is easier said than done, but also a piece of advice that 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 in the long-term.
Training programs: Training is a strategic place to start, and it also helps you and your organisation prioritise stress management as an ongoing initiative. One off training is not the answer, but it is definitely a good start.
Wellness Programs and Initiatives: Wellness programs benefit the business in many ways, one of these benefits being that it can reduce stress in the workplace. These campaigns can focus on the potential causes of stress and teach people how to deal with them effectively. This could include working to deadlines or traffic congestion – both of which workers come into contact with as part of their working day. Exercise can also help reduce stress, highlighting how companies can use health initiatives to combat the problem (this isn't to say a morning 5k is going to be everyone's cup of tea though!).
Stress will always be present in the workplace and can never be entirely eliminated. A healthy amount of stress leads to productivity and creativity. But this balance is crucial, and when employees become too stressed, it takes a toll on not only them, but on the overall health of the company. To make sure you have a happy, healthy, and engaged workforce, stress management is a must.