We hear about stress every single day, either from the people we know or in the media, but does the constant use of the term ‘stress’ mean we have stopped caring about what it really means for those affected? Are we now taking it less seriously than we should?
For #stressawarenessday and for all those people who are currently affected by stress every day of their working lives, for those whose ‘Monday blues’ start with ‘Sunday scaries’ and go on into 'Wednesday woes', we wanted to shine a light on the topic of stress in the workplace and look at ways to provide effective stress management.
Work-related stress is on the rise, it's directly responsible for absenteeism and reduced productivity and having a very direct impact on workplace wellbeing. But what causes stress? And how can we reduce the impact of stress in the workplace to improve employee wellbeing?
Let’s look at just some of the key statistics around stress in the UK:
Of those who feel that they experience frequent stress, 79% say it is work-related (Statistica)
Workplace absences are at 10-year high with stress being the major cause of long-term sickness (Sky News).
13.7 million working days are lost each year in the UK because of work-related stress, anxiety and depression, costing £28.3 billion yearly (nice.org).
33% of employees report that high levels of stress impact productivity (Champion health)
Looking at just one key sector, the most recent Teacher Wellbeing Index reported three-quarters of all school staff are stressed, with burnout and mental health issues on the rise.
Of those experiencing stress in the UK, 16% had self-harmed and 32% said they had experienced suicidal thoughts and feelings (Mental Health Foundation and YouGov).
It’s clear something needs to change, and understanding some of the causes of stress is a good place to start…
The key to understanding stress is knowing the difference between being stressed and being busy
We're all aware that workload is a key factor in causing stress, but is it the amount of work alone that is the main issue? 54% of employees agree that the perfect amount of ‘stress’ enables them to thrive (Champion health), so clearly ‘stress’ can have its benefits. That is to say, just being very busy isn’t the problem.
We thrive on being busy and being productive under the right circumstances…but the ingredient that turns happily-busy into stress-and-overwhelm is…anxiety.
When employees are worried about work, for any number of reasons, then being busy turns quickly into being stressed.
How does being stressed affect employee wellbeing?
To understand this, it’s helpful to look at the difference between someone being busy at work and someone being stressed. Let’s look at the example of Ann, an employee who has a heavy workload on the lead up to the Christmas break. The difference would look something like this…
The main difference here is that when Ann is stressed, she is feeling anxious about the work she’s doing. There are many things that can cause this anxiety, from internal politics and unexpected challenges to change and issues with personal relationships. Whatever the cause of the anxiety, the outcome is a lack of confidence in her ability to cope. And this lack of confidence in turn leads to more anxiety. This cycle starts to look like this...
How can you help employees feel more able to cope with the challenges that will inevitably come their way so they feel less of the anxiety that leads to overwhelm, lack of confidence and ultimately long–term stress?
The importance of Resilience Building as a stress management technique
Resilience works like a magic cloak. Once you put it on, you can protect yourself from the impact of life’s difficulties and challenges. By building resilience we cope better with everything that is thrown at us, and by coping better we bounce back faster, and grow in confidence with every challenge we overcome.
For example, if we take the story of Ann, while she’s feeling the strain of her additional workload on the run up to Christmas, if she puts on her magic resilience cloak, she will still be really busy but able to face the additional demands on her time with greater confidence. The result would be a positive feedback loop like this...
Resilience building works as the very best form of stress management.
The good news is, that although resilience may not necessarily be something we’re born with, it is something we can learn. It is exactly these skills that our Resilience Training Programme is designed to instil in employees, to help create a more robust workforce that is able to bounce back and feel confident in the face of challenges….and is therefore less stressed.
Our online course, designed by a team of psychologists and backed by the Resilience Research Centre, covers the six key areas of Resilience Building: Structures and Routines; Recognition of Talents; Mapping a Support Network; Help Seeking; Mindfulness and Self-Regulation and Goal Setting.
Each section, supported by a detailed workbook, works to build the resilience that helps employees to cope with challenges, and creates a happier, healthier, more motivated and engaged workforce.