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14 Feb 2024
by Victoria Roe Dos Santos

5 ways employers can help ease stress in the workplace

Workloads and management styles are the main causes of workplace stress, according to a survey

6 ways employers can help reduce workplace stress and boost wellbeingjpg


Many people feel under pressure at work. Sometimes this can be useful, when a sense of urgency gives the energy and motivation to rise to a challenge. But when stress becomes too much and causes anxiety, depression, or a feeling of being overwhelmed, it has a negative effect on mental health – and can also cause physical symptoms.

More than three-quarters (79%) of respondents to the CIPD’s 2022 Health and Wellbeing at Work report reported stress-related absence in their organisation over the last year, a figure that rises to 90% of large organisations (with  more than 250 employees). Workloads and management style were identified as the main causes of workplace stress.

How employees can help themselves

There are many ways that employees can mitigate workplace pressures, to prevent stress rising to an unmanageable level. These can include:

  • Identifying triggers – sometimes these triggers can’t be avoided, such as in the case of urgent deadlines. But understanding what they are and being prepared with coping mechanisms, such as taking things one step at a time, can help.
  • Addressing the causes – where stress is higher than it needs to be and can be managed better, steps can be taken to resolve the issue.
  • Accepting things that can’t be changed – this can be effective in refocusing the mind on more productive thoughts and actions.
  • Organising time – this will increase the feeling of being in control; it’s important to also factor in time to plan and when to take breaks. Making lists, varying activities, and not undertaking too many tasks at once, as well as identifying the best time of day to address certain tasks, can all ease stress.

Tackling stress can also be about a shift in mindset. Building emotional resilience can help to deal with stress and pressure. Use relaxation techniques and try to find a balance between work and other areas of life. Looking after physical health, by eating well and being physically active, can also help relieve stress and mitigate compounding impacts on mental health.

Sometimes it’s about being assertive and saying no to extra tasks when it’s not realistic to take on more. Conversely, one cause of stress that can be missed by managers is where an employee doesn’t have enough work or responsibility, leading to feeling undervalued or not part of the team. Having the confidence to ask for more responsibility can help self-esteem and career progression.

Ways employers can help reduce workplace stress

There are many steps that employers can take to reduce workplace stress, both to help employees with wellbeing and to maintain a supportive workplace culture:

1. Communication: Ensure that there is regular communication with employees about the mental and physical wellbeing resources available. Beyond individual benefits such as gym memberships, group risk providers (offering group life assurance, income protection, and critical illness) may provide wellbeing services including mental health apps, self-help material, support and access to counselling. Employees need to know these resources are availale in order to take advantage.

2. Support networks: Establish and use colleague support networks to boost a positive workplace wellbeing culture. Support can come from line managers, peers, HR, or union representatives. Many employers have trained mental health first aiders as a first line of employee support – MHFA England is a good starting point.

3. Employee support programmes: Provide a confidential employee assistance programme, through which employees can access counselling and support groups. This can include targeted support for particular causes of stress, such as bereavement. And be sure to communicate it effectively, so employees know where to go when they need to access it.

4. Flexible working: Supporting flexible working – and helping employees achieve the work/life balance that’s right for both them and your business – is an easy and cost-free approach that can result in reduced stress levels across the workforce.

5. Monitoring and providing appropriate support: Staff surveys or stress audits can identify key issues within the organisation. The results can shape the provision you offer, which could include training line managers to better support teams and engaging occupational health specialists.

Reducing workplace stress is often a balance between establishing the culture and structures to maintain a positive work environment and providing the resources to enable employees to best maintain their own wellbeing. By being mindful of these factors, employers can best support their employees, reduce absence, and boost productivity.

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