Health and WellbeingMaking stress in the workplace a priority to positively impact productivity

Making stress in the workplace a priority to positively impact productivity

David Bourne Head of Health & Wellbeing, Thomsons discussed the importance of stress in the workplace, and what effect this can have on a workforce.

Stress Awareness Month has highlighted the sheer number of employees in the UK who suffer from stress on a consistent basis. To delve deeper into discovering the importance of tackling stress at work, David Bourne, Head of Health & Wellbeing, Thomsons, discusses whether companies are doing enough to address this issue, and what work still needs to be done. 


How much of an impact can stress have on a workforce?

Stress now accounts for over a third of work-related ill health cases and over half of all working days lost due to ill health in Great Britain. Employees taking time-out due to stress impacts business productivity, but also general morale.

Stress can be especially hard to spot because it exists on a sliding scale. Most employees will feel a level of stress at some point, but when this is consistently high for a prolonged period of time, it can have a hugely detrimental effect on mental health. For this reason, employers need to provide programmes that incorporate mental health workshops to help employees cope with issues like stress from the starting point.

Has work-related stress improved or worsened?

While some companies are taking steps to reduce stress among employees, it’s difficult to say whether stress levels have improved or worsened. Constantly developing technology and increased connectivity are enabling employees to be permanently plugged into their work. This is often blamed for increased stress among the workforce as employees can feel a level of guilt for switching-off.

There are also many pressures outside of work that can affect our productivity too and it’s unrealistic to think a clear-cut line can be drawn between the stresses of work and home. Demographic and economic changes mean we’re dealing with an array of strains such as increased caring responsibilities for elderly relatives, often juggled alongside childcare. For others, the high cost of living and inability to afford things like houses or cars may add financial strains. Holistically, it’s a complicated picture; there’s arguably more for us to contend with than ever before.

What can companies do to prevent/improve work-related stress?

Companies can take many steps to support their people to reduce work-related stress. In-office measures like reviewing management processes, regular check-ins around workload or even providing massage or yoga sessions can be effective options.

Recognising the increasingly global way many employees now work is also important. It’s becoming the norm for people to work outside of traditional hours as they keep in touch with colleagues around the world. This, coupled with external pressures, means the ‘9-5’ is becoming an outmoded way of working for many people, which is fuelling demand for options like the four-day week and flexible working. Responding to this and giving people the flexibility to work in a way that strikes the right work / life balance for them will undoubtedly have a positive impact on stress levels.

Bearing those external factors in mind is key for employers too as they often impact work performance. Financial pressures, caring responsibilities and our own mental health can all contribute to the way we work. It’s just as important for employers to offer support in these areas too.

Benefits that help with financial saving, offer mental health support, like 24/7 counselling services, or encourage better physical health like free fruit in the office and discount gym memberships are all great options. Being able to provide employees the flexibility to fulfil contracted hours in a way that works best for them is also a crucial step. It will allow them to strike a better work/life balance, which will have a positive impact on productivity and company loyalty.

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