Workplace Stress Awareness: Strategies for Leaders and Their Teams

According to a recent study*, workplace stress costs UK businesses over £28 billion a year. Yet, many managers feel they cannot sufficiently support individual cases of workplace stress. In general, businesses understand well-being and workplace performance are linked but lack the psychological insights to create lasting change. Yet, improving workplaces leads to better business, customer, and employee outcomes. Revenue potential increases for those stress-aware employers.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) define stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them.” This could be down to individual, workplace, or societal factors. For example, work has altered due to a period of rapid change. Technological changes, longer working lives, rising dual-career couples, precarious contracts and global competition all destabilise former preconceptions about work. These can be sources of stress.

Sources of stress vary in how controllable they are. It is important, however, for employers to mitigate workplace risks wherever possible. Employers can do this by recognising and managing every risk to individual and team psychological health in the same way they would remove physical hazards. To get started, managers can look out for tell-tale signs.

Spotting signs need not be complicated for managers. You may notice conflict, high-staff turnover, absence, complaints or grievances, and a loss of performance. Similarly, among individuals, you may notice a change in mood such as a lack of confidence, poor punctuality, and a lack of motivation. Spotting the signs within others and yourself helps alleviate the negative consequences of stress. Having strategies in place will help raise awareness and avoid ramifications such as sickness absence.

Greater psychological awareness of the workplace can help managers diagnose the links between work tasks and stress. Using acquired knowledge, leaders can prevent poor employee health. Improving team well-being grows organisational success. Leaders can improve their awareness of workplace stress by asking these questions:

  1. Are employees and managers able to have proper conversations between them about stress?
  2. Is confidentiality exercised?
  3. Is there a clear intolerance to bad behaviours such as bullying?
  4. Is work sufficiently varied and autonomous?
  5. Are work demands and deadlines sufficiently stretching but not over-demanding?
  6. Are rewards sufficient for the work?

Once this knowledge is established, leaders can make several changes to help reduce stress including:

  1. Demonstrate commitment to reducing stress within one’s actions and leadership
  2. Exemplify behaviours by visibly avoiding overwork
  3. Provide training
  4. Develop teamwork and communication
  5. Ensure problems are reported and acted upon
  6. Prioritise your own mental health

Improving your own awareness and that of your team regarding workplace stress helps achieve greater business outcomes. If these signs and causes of stress resonate with your workplace book a free no-obligation 30-minute call to find out how I can support your organisation.

*AXA (2023)

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