How to combat stress in the workplace

Stress is bad for business. With stress comes increased absenteeism, reduced productivity, greater staff turnover, grievances and even litigation. Small businesses need to deal with short-term increases in workload; this often means missed lunch breaks and working late.

But when expectations are continuously pushed it can trigger stress overload amongst staff, and the effect on business can be devastating.

Health and safety law obliges employers to assess risks from work-related stress and take measures to control it.  Where an employee’s stress-related illness could have been prevented by an employer, compensation can quickly become very substantial.

But beyond an employer’s legal obligations, effective management of stress in the workplace should also drive business benefits for small businesses in the UK. Better quality of working life for employees, stronger employment relations, higher productivity and greater staff retention should all be amongst the benefits of reducing stress at work.   

Preventing Workplace Stress

Managing stress is a challenge, it is different for everyone and some thrive on situations which would make others crumble. But many forms of unwanted stress can be prevented, and avoiding stressful situations in the future should save on time, money and…well, stress!

So we have grouped the most common contributing factors under four headings and suggested some solutions of how you can avoid stress developing in your business;

1. Workload: Employees will often become stressed if they feel overloaded, unable to cope with their workload or unable to do a certain type of work.

Possible Solution: Ensure adequate training so that employees are well equipped to deal with their duties, consider flexible working hours, and pay attention to the way job roles are designed and duties allocated.

2. Control: Employees who do not have control over elements of how and when their job is done are more susceptible to stress.  

Possible Solution: Employers can help this by building effective teams, encouraging employees to give feedback and by directly involving them in decision-making in the workplace. Performance reviews are also a useful tool if carried out correctly, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and setting personal objectives for employees to work towards.

3. Support: If employees feel unable to talk to their managers about issues that are troubling them, they are more likely to feel stressed and, in some cases, this can result in increased levels of absenteeism.

Possible Solution: Ensure you actively encourage your employees to talk to you, by giving them opportunities to sit down with you in a one to one situation and discuss their work or any questions they have..

4. Change: We all know that uncertainty at work can affect productivity. Job insecurity (or even speculation about it) can lead to significant stress amongst your employees.

Possible Solution: Make sure that changes don’t come out of the blue; plan ahead, consult with your staff, and keep everyone informed. Communicate with staff about the ups and downs, and most importantly what the Company are doing about it.

One of the simplest tools to you can use to help combat stress is to ensure that staff take the breaks and holiday entitlement they are given. Encouraging staff to have a real break from work, gives them time away and helps recharge the batteries- planning holiday cover when you know about it is far easier than dealing with a unplanned sick absence as a result of stress (a condition which HSE state results in an average  of 24 days off work).

citrusHR helps you and your staff keep on top of this, by managing both planned and unplanned absences.

Clearly employers cannot control every factor that contributes to stress. But by taking these steps, small businesses should be able to control the environment and prevent it from becoming a breeding ground for the sort of stress that becomes corrosive.

Stress may be bad for business, but employers who find effective ways of managing stress may find that they become the workplace of choice for a growing number of staff.

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