In our latest Wellbeing Index, we found that pressures at work are having a profound effect on employees across the UK: 28% of employees say that the pressure and stress in their job has often or very often reached unmanageable amounts over the past three months.
Many are working beyond their contracted hours because they are unable to complete their tasks during the working day, and 23% of employees believe that this is expected from them.
Other top reasons that employees are working beyond contracted hours include the belief it will help to achieve a promotion, to impress their manager or simply because other colleagues are doing so.
The prevalence of these unhealthy working habits highlights the importance of building a healthy workplace culture, where staff feel comfortable enough to call out and discourage these behaviours.
From a HR perspective, 80% of employers admit to having observed presenteeism within their organisation, which is likely a result of the impossible demands expected from their employees who are on the verge of burnout.
Two in five employees feel their company doesn’t support wellbeing, meaning that many employees across the UK aren’t speaking out when they are under stress. It’s evident that employers could be doing more to help relieve the pressures placed on employees and reduce stress. We’ve outlined 6 steps below to help you get started:
6 ways to reduce stress in the workplace
Lead by example
It’s important for business leaders to not let negativity and stress rub off on employees. It’s all about practising what you preach; managers need to take measures to manage their own stress levels and not participate in any unhealthy working habits, setting a positive example to the wider workforce.
Set clear goals and objectives
Employees need focus so it’s essential that managers are able to articulate clear goals for their team members. By setting clearer objectives, employees don’t need to ponder how they should carry out a task or why they’re doing it. Clear goals give staff focus and demonstrate how they are contributing to the bigger picture. It also gives employees a sense of purpose and helps to reduce stress as they are less likely to go off track.
Offer flexible working
These days employees are looking for more flexibility at work. Salary isn’t everything, and many people will often choose one organisation over another due to their flexible working options. In terms of stress, it’s impossible to leave worries at the office door. A flexible working pattern may help to reduce external stresses and allow staff to be more engaged and productive at work.
Exercise is proven to reduce stress. There’s no reason for employees to be sat at their desks all day. Simple things such as taking part in walking meetings can help to bring down stress levels – there are lots of ways to be more active at work. Just taking time away from a stressful situation, even if this is only brief, can help employees to feel more relaxed when they return to their desks.
Sometimes people just need a few minutes to disengage, relax and refocus. There are plenty of quick mindfulness exercises that employees can practise at the office. Mindfulness helps staff to retain focus throughout the day and can help them to combat any negative or difficult thoughts and feelings that can cause anxiety and stress.
Regular ‘temperature checks’
Are you aware of stress in your organisation? Often stress-related issues go unnoticed because employers simply aren’t aware. Employees will generally internalise their concerns but by carrying out regular ‘temperature check’ surveys, you can unearth stress-related issues and deal with them before they result in illness or impact productivity. Anonymous surveys provide staff with an opportunity to call out any concerns they might not feel comfortable expressing directly to their line managers.
However, it’s important to promote an open and honest culture when it comes to employee wellbeing. Open communication is crucial in leadership - employees need to be kept up to date with any changes and expectations within the organisation, but also on their own performance. This helps to keep staff on track but also reduces any stress and anxiety they may experience in the run up to their appraisal.
A great way to promote regular and honest communication is through introducing regular 1:1 meetings between employees and line managers. As part of a wider health and wellbeing strategy, this can highlight any potential issues and help you to provide the right support for staff who might be struggling with stress and other potential mental health issues.
Our free Health and Wellbeing Toolkit contains all the information you need to start creating your company's strategy, featuring help and advice on everything from building the business case and exploring supplier options, to implementing and evaluating the process.