EngagementEmployee EngagementStress at work: the facts

Stress at work: the facts

Today is National Stress Day, but it’s something that sadly exists all year round, 24/7. Stress is something that everyone suffers be it silently, evidently or rationally, but like many things in life, there is no guide on how to handle stressful situations – especially at work.

Employees face umpteen pressures every single day, in fact during 2016 and 2017 throughout the UK 12.5 million days were lost due to work-related stress and depression which – evidently this is a national epidemic, and needs to be addressed.

What is causing us to be so incredibly stressed?

Stress is a personal thing, and there can be so many reasons why an individual is suffering from feeling stressed at work. Some of the common factors being; having an unrealistic workload but always feeling overwhelmed without support and finding it difficult to carry out the work expected due to lack of tools and sometimes upskilling employees is needed to let then carry out a role more efficiently.

In the last few years, general workload has been the number one reason for stress at work, seconded by lack of general support and thirdly, which is probably the most disheartening of all is bullying, threatening behaviour and sometimes even violence in the workplace.

Workload and lack of support from leaders

Many of the reasons listed for causing stress all lead to the workload in one way or another, these reasons are; long hours, lack of job security, no job satisfaction which leads to boredom and distractions which in turn leads to more work. According to Unison stress can be difficult to identify because employees do not always want to disclose how they are feeling. There can be other factors involved including the workplace itself (bad facilities, noise, lack of space etc) and of course, salary and low pay.

Being asked to do work that is overwhelming is common if you are good at your job you are asked to do more because you trusted to deliver. Working enviornments are personal, and the way you work is to, if employees cannot work in the way they feel is beneficial this can also have a detrimental impact. There are several ways to determine if employees are overly stressed, some of these being:

  • A change in regular behaviour
  • If the standard of their work changes
  • An increase in sickness absence
  • Increase or evident drinking and smoking
  • Appearing withdrawn and lacking in confidence
  • Using your initiative – you work with these people day in day out, if something is different, you’ll most probably notice without needing to be told

As an employer, it’s important to understand the legal requirements around and their personal legal obligations towards stress in the workplace and overall improving general working conditions, the CIPD has some helpful information on this subject.

As an employer stress and ensuring the wellbeing of your workforce should be one most important fixtures on your agenda, mainly because the happier people reflects upon overall productivity. Professor Sir Cary Cooper wrote an article for The Guardian in 2011 detailing that managers need to be trained with interpersonal skills and need to be strong communicators to ensure happiness within workplaces.

Bullying in the workplace

Bullying and unreasonable behaviour unfortunately happens all the time, and seen as some people can spend up to 60% of their lives at work, workplaces are commonplace for bullying behaviour. According to The National Bullying Helpline 80% of managers are aware bullying takes place, however, 37% say they have received no form of training to combat it – surely this needed addressing immediately. Being in a managerial position is a multifaceted role, you are solely there to maintain the productivity of employees – which wellbeing falls entirely into.

In 2015, TUC reported from a poll carried out by YouGov that nearly a third of employees have experienced bullying at some point. Specific social groups have been targeted according to recent Acas research, these groups being; women in traditionally male-dominated roles; those with disabilities and long-term health issues, the LGBTQ community and also workers within healthcare.

Acas Chair, Sir Brendan Barber, said: “Anti-bullying workplace policies and managers with good people management skills are essential to deal with the growing problem of bullying.”

Harassment and bullying on any level is not acceptable, it has never been, however now we live in an era of such prevalent transparency what with social media and ever-advancing technology we should be exposing this behaviour in any way possible – not using it as a bullying facilitator.

Cyberbullying policies within workplaces are becoming a regular fixture, and if you as a business don’t have a policy – it could be hindering your workforce and the power they have as a victim of the abuse. These policies should act as the guidance of the use of social media within work and the disciplinary actions that will be taken if it is used to bully members of staff. The policy should have examples of what is deemed unacceptable – this should be created in consultation with employees or trade union representation. Considerations around how far these policies stretch also needs to be considered – what happens outside of work when employees go home, should it cover this also?

Preventing stress

However widescale the issue of stress is, there are always ways of reducing stress and feeling generally calmer about the way you work. Constructive ways to do this are:

  • Asking for help. Sometimes this is the hardest thing to do – but the more people informed about the stress you face, the higher chance of it being reduced.
  • Balancing time effectively. Sometimes you may need to work longer hours, if this is regaulr and impacting your personal life – ask to claim the time back, you deserve a good work/life balance.
  • Don’t be hard on yourself. Most of the time, you are your own worst enemy and normally the only person who expects you to be perfect is in fact, you.
  • Setting personal goals and rewards. If you set yourself little rewards and goals the task at hand doesn’t seem so incredibly daunting because there is something to look forward to.

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