Stress at work
Stress is a topic that has been talked about for decades but still hasn’t been fully understood. In today’s workplace, stress seems to be a common theme. It is a difficult feeling of emotional or physical tension to manage, but it is imperative that we acknowledge it and talk about it as a means of empowering ourselves and our employees. By empowering ourselves and our employees with the knowledge of what stress is and how to manage it, we can help reduce the amount of stress at work and help build a healthy, happy culture
In 2020/21, 2,480 per 100,000 workers self-reported to have been affected by work-related stress, depression or anxiety (SDA) in Great Britain. Work-related SDA contributed to approximately 50% of work-related ill-health in 2020/21.
While stress itself does not pick and choose the occupation, gender or workplace size to affect, some are affected more than others. Overall, statistically, females between the ages of 25-34 reported significantly higher rates of stress at work, depression, or anxiety and compared to their male counterparts. Workplaces with 250+ employees reported significantly higher rates compared to medium and small businesses.
Out of the 822,000 workers in 2020/21 who suffered from work-related SDA, 449,000 reported that this was caused or made worse by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. A report from CIPHR confirmed that 75% of UK adults feel stressed at least one day a month.
Download the infographic from here
Factors for Stress at work
Stress is a normal and healthy response to life’s challenges. But when stress becomes prolonged, it can have a significant impact on our health and well-being. Stress can be caused by external factors, such as financial worries, or by internal factors, such as a demanding job. It can also be caused by a combination of the two.
Between 2009 to 2012 labour force survey, highlighted that workload and lack of support were the top-ranking causes of stress in a workplace. A more recent work survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) 2022 reported workloads/ volume of work to still be the number one cause of stress, followed by non-work factors – relationship or family issues – and management style to be the other leading causes of stress.
COVID was the highest factor contributing to work-related SDA in 2020/21. As we find our way and navigate through the new normal it may eventually subside, what we will be left with are the issues that have been following us for the last decade. Which are workloads/ volume, lack of support, management style, and poor work-life balance.
Interventions and Preventions
Stress is an unavoidable part of life, and it can have a significant impact on our health and well-being. It’s impossible to completely avoid stress, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take steps to minimize its negative effects
Being proactive in addressing the causes that lead to work-related SDA is one of the most effective ways organisations can approach this issue. Early intervention, can help stop the downward spiral; building a healthy and thriving work environment requires commitment from all levels of management and employees. Early intervention may include holding “toolbox talks/ wellness nuggets ”Wellness nuggets / Tool box talk” by health and safety staff to open the door to dialogue and awareness surrounding mental health. Providing employees with a safe space to discuss issues related to their mental health is of high importance.
Prevention may include implementing organizational frameworks and policies and procedures such as the ISO 45003:2021 Occupational health and safety management — Psychological health and safety at work — Guidelines for managing psychosocial risks. ISO systems and frameworks enable set procedures that help identify the causes of stress and mitigate them. However, this is limited to how well the process is implemented and followed.
In my opinion, stress at work is best understood when we are empowered with the knowledge of what stress is and how it works. We should understand that stress is not always a bad thing, a certain amount of good stress is needed to keep us motivated and “pumped up”. However, we also need to be aware when stress starts to become harmful and learn to stop and be empowered to say “No”. As employers empower and provide our employees with a safe space to express their stressors. To be able to do this we need to become aware and identify what triggers these stress levels and have an action plan in place
Imagine a world where you can identify when you’re starting to feel stressed. A world where you could take action to prevent those stress-related symptoms from escalating. A world where, when your employees are stressed, you can empower them with the knowledge and tools they need to take action and reduce their stress. That world is possible, and it’s closer than you think.