Workplace stress affects every company and every employee.
Along with mental health, it’s the biggest health and wellness issue facing organisations today. Mental stress claims are rising each year – in part because employees are more confident in coming forward, and in part because levels of stress are increasing. Work-related mental stress claims are the most expensive form of workers’ compensation claims, and they result in the longest periods of days off work.
Chronic stress is linked to long-term health problems such as heart disease, obesity, anxiety and depression.
The many causes of stress
Stress is also complicated, with many causes. It’s not like high cholesterol – you can measure cholesterol, provide professional advice on diet and exercise, and measure the improvements after a year.
There are a thousand reasons why an employee might be stressed. Stress could be caused by pressures at work or at home – too many demands, or too many changes. Even outside work, stressors such as relationships, finances, study, young children, teenage children or elderly parents can cause havoc on an employee’s mental health. Fortunately, stress is one of those things which can be managed at the source. By empowering employees to manage their stress, they can begin to reduce their stress levels.
Employees may not have control over their stressors – the events or circumstances which stress them – but they can learn how to take control of their reaction to these stressors. Employees also benefit from learning how to manage the effects of stress, through lifestyle changes such as physical exercise or relaxation techniques.
What you can do
Certainly, there are still macro, organisation-wide changes you can make, such as restructuring work allocations, improving team leader skills or even changing the culture of your organisation, but these major shifts take time. Even in the most perfectly balanced workplace, there will still be employees who feel stressed and are therefore underperforming.
Give your employees the knowledge, skills and tools they need to manage their stress. Just as you would train employees in how to perform manual handling tasks safely to reduce physical injury, train your employees in how to handle stress to reduce psychological injury.
Stress management initiatives could include:
- training and education on stress management: eg seminars/ webinars, courses, workshops, campaigns etc.
- training in resilience, positive thinking or emotional intelligence
- physical exercise: provide opportunity for employees to improve their fitness and physical activity levels, through employee campaigns, group classes, corporate fitness rooms or exercise tips and advice.
- diet: educate your employees on stress-busting foods, and how to eat for optimum mental health.
- sleep: give your employees information and support to improve their sleeping habits, for a better quantity and quantity of sleep.
- work-life balance: help your employees find work-life balance, through coaching, campaigns or education such as seminars & booklets.
Healthworks offers a range of stress management resources. Call us on 1300 90 10 90 to find out more.