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Stress at work is something almost everybody will feel at some stage in their working life. This is not necessarily a bad thing as stress raises adrenaline levels in the body which some people can channel into increased productivity and greater focus.

The key challenge for employers is to ensure that manageable stress does not become overwhelming for their staff. This should be done through effective preventative measures to curb excessive stress triggers or minimising the impact prolonged stress can have on mental health.

Potential Stress Triggers

According to Mind, the Mental Health Charity; “‘Workplace stress is the harmful physical and emotional responses that can happen when there is a conflict between job demands on the employee and the amount of control an employee has over meeting these demands. In general, the combination of high demands in a job and a low amount of control over the situation can lead to stress.”

A lack of control in the work environment can affect anyone, from board level to the shop floor. The good news is by identifying some of the key causes of an employee’s anxieties; you can learn to implement strategies to aid them in regaining control. Here are some of the most common elements of working life employees can lose control over.

  • Work Loads – Arguably the most famous cause of work related stress is having too much to do in limited time frames whilst striving to meet the standards expected of your businesses and potentially meeting KPIs set down by managers.

  • Monotony – Conversely a lack of stimulation at work or doing the same simple thing over and over again can lead to employees having little motivation to do their job.

  • Team Environment & Relationships- Personality clashes, bullying, competition and a lack of professional understanding can all cause internal pressures which can develop into stressful situations for individuals.

  • Business Culture – The phrase “lead by example” is not to be taken lightly! Poor communication, leadership and a lack of accountability from up high will inevitably cause poor morale in your employees and potentially lead to stress triggers being repeatedly pushed.

You may also be interested in:
How to manage mental health in the workplace
A recruiters guide to managing stress 

Five steps to minimize stress

While it may be impossible to alleviate stress completely from your employees, there are ways to minimize its negative impacts. Remember, stress is not necessarily bad in itself, but rather something that can take a positive or negative turn. Your responsibility is to always try and ensure stress in your workplace remains beneficial rather than detrimental. Here are five ways you can do this on a macro level.  

1. Create a culture of acceptance in your business

An individual’s positive intentions are almost null and void if the overall business’ attitude towards stress is negative. HR and line managers must move away from the stigma attached to employee stress and the mental health issues which can arise from it.

Embrace open lines of communication with staff at all levels of seniority. This will encourage them to discuss their stress levels at the onset and before they escalate to the point where work is impacted and costs incurred. 

2. Provide training on people skills

It is no good to encourage people to talk about their stress levels if the people listening do not know how to respond or help. Knowing how to manage common concerns of employees and separating what individuals need on a case by case basis is vital as no two people can be treated with the same “one size fits all” solution.

3. Make sure jobs are flexible and well designed

Employers should inform and consult employees on upcoming changes in shifts, responsibilities and hours that are likely to affect them before they take place. Allowing them to ask questions before and after the job changes will make them feel part of the process and give them a chance to take back any control in their lives they feel could be lost because of them. 

4. Introduce workplace health & wellness schemes

Exercise and a healthy lifestyle are vital for a person’s mental health. Gym memberships, running groups and company wide healthy eating challenges are just some examples of what organisations have introduced as initiatives to improve their staff’s morale and overall health. As the old saying goes, a healthy body equals a healthy mind. 

5. Walk the walk

It would be hypocritical to introduce all these positive actions if you yourself do not actually follow them. You should actively promote both a healthy lifestyle and work life balance. Manage your working hours and be open about your challenges and stress levels as well as how you are tackling them.

Did you find these tips on managing stress in the workplace useful?

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