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Are you starting from a good place?

stress management at work

Are you starting from a good place?

I was asked to present a webinar to a business client about how to deal with stress in the workplace but without having the word stress in the title as apparently that puts people off attending.

We concentrated on ways to improve health and wellbeing and discussed what is and isn’t in your control, looking out for colleagues and what employers have in place to support both physical and mental health. We then finished the session with some simple stretches you can do at the desk to encourage movement during the day.

As usual, we sent a link to an anonymous online survey to receive feedback on the session and for the most part, the responses were positive saying the session was helpful and they particularly liked the stretches at the end. However, there was one person who was not impressed, who felt it was delivered in such a way that put responsibility for stress management entirely on the employee. I dispute that, but putting that aside, and putting aside my huge over-sensitivity that somebody did not agree with my presentation (I took it so personally) I realised this was someone who has grievances with their employer but who also made some valid points in their criticism.

What this person was saying was factors causing stress were out of employees control, such as excessive workloads, unrealistic targets, unworkable deadlines and salaries well below sector average. They felt the session would have been more effective if it had been had with managers and those responsible for allocating workloads, highlighting to them the impact it has on staff and to work through some strategies that they could put in place in their management to reduce stress among staff.

I could tell just from those comments in the survey just how passionate this person felt about it. Unfortunately, I believe it is a fact that many good people leave their jobs because of these kinds of frustrations and it is such a shame.

We need to take on board what the pandemic has shown us and that is burnout and stress due to factors such as unrealistic workloads or little mental health support has led to employees seeking employment opportunities elsewhere, where the link between mental health and physical health are dealt with as one.

It’s all very well, thinking up new ideas of what you can implement to improve staff wellbeing but the fundamentals have to be in place. It’s no use offering different activities, and I include those that we offer as a company, if staff don’t feel comfortable taking part and they won’t be comfortable taking part if they are under so much pressure with their workload or time restraints.

What would it cost to implement regular one to one meetings with staff to talk through these issues? A once a year appraisal is not enough. Have regular forums between management and employees for open discussions without fear of reprisals. Give everyone an opportunity to say how they feel and encourage participation in discussions to increase feelings of engagement and control over their workload.

Employers taking on board effective management methods to reduce the stress and to have communication on a regular basis with employees ensures no-one feels under immense pressure, and will increase positive feelings of wellbeing and less health issues.

Get the fundamentals right with employee health and wellbeing, then build on top of that other wellbeing strategies employees will want to take part in and you will have the beginnings of a great health and wellbeing programme.