How to beat stress

Stress in the workplace is a common enough phenomenon and can be caused by a complex set of interactive issues, from poor health or financial difficulties to a lack of managerial communication or poor management.  The result of stress on individuals is pronounced and for companies, can mean lower productivity and a rise in sick days, which in turn affects the bottom line. Each year, the first week in November is when Stress Awareness Week takes place and we’re looking back on this year’s event in this week’s article. To mark it, we’ve put together some strategies to reduce stress in the workplace.

Stress in the workplace is a common enough phenomenon and can be caused by a complex set of interactive issues, from poor health or financial difficulties to a lack of managerial communication or poor management.  The result of stress on individuals is pronounced and for companies, can mean lower productivity and a rise in sick days, which in turn affects the bottom line. Each year, the first week in November is when Stress Awareness Week takes place and we’re looking back on this year’s event in this week’s article. To mark it, we’ve put together some strategies to reduce stress in the workplace.

Midway through Stress Awareness Week, the first Wednesday in November is International Stress Awareness day, an annual event led by the International Stress Management Association. For 2019, the guiding theme of this day was ‘Resilience – the Power to Succeed’.  A 2018 study by MentalHealth.org found 74% of respondents have felt so stressed that they have become overwhelmed or unable to cope. Whilst workplaces can naturally be stressful or pressured environments, to those living with stress, workplace stress can at times feel challenging to overcome.

It is estimated that happy employees are 12 times more productive at work, taking ten times fewer sick days. So, it is very much in the interests of organisations to address stress and mental wellbeing in the workplace. Of course, all individuals and organisations are different, so you’re unlikely to find a ‘one size fits all’ approach, but experimenting with a few options, as well as making resources available to staff could work to build their resilience for the future. Leading the charge is Anglian Water, which was voted Best Place to Work 2018.

Wellbeing is written into our business plan and our annual reporting.  It has become a strategic boardroom issue. Employees should be on the balance sheet in the same way as you account for cash. People think it’s a bolt-on, but we say this is part of our business strategy.

Peter Simpson, CEO, Anglian Water

One of the first ways an individual can start reducing stress levels is to start looking after the ‘house’ that stress lives in: the body. Living an active life is essential for physical health and fitness, but evidence shows it can also improve your mental wellbeing. ‘Mental wellbeing’ essentially means feeling good – both about yourself and the world around you; it means being able to live your life in the way you want. Despite popular belief, staying active doesn’t necessarily mean you need to spend long hours in the gym. Here are some simple ways you can stay active without going to the gym:

  • Walking on your lunch break
  • Using the stairs instead of the lift
  • Take part in the Couch to 5k Challenge – the app is free on the App Store and Google Play
  • Taking up a dance class
  • Joining a sports team

Equally important to your mental wellbeing is learning to take some time out. Take a look at these simple stress-busting tips to help you pause throughout your day:

  • If you can, get outside and get some fresh air
  • Have a chat with a friend or colleague
  • Schedule in some time to relax – and stick to it!
  • Switch off from your devices

Within the workplace it is important to take control; our inboxes will always be full; the workload will always flow. Learning to accept this and prioritising the most important tasks, means that you will be able to work smarter not harder. Within the workplace, having tolerance and compassion for other people’s stress is also an essential quality to foster. Respecting – and not rising to – individual differences within the workplace will reduce stress across the whole organisation.

Here at Housing Partners an approach we took to stress in the workplace was assigning and training a mental health advocate within the organisation. We see mental health as just important as physical health and want our employees to be equipped with the skills necessary to recognise symptoms of distress, engage with those experiencing difficulty and offer pathways to appropriate support. Olivia Hill, HR Advisor and Lesley Westwood, Director of Finance attended a course with Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA) earlier this year to become organisational mental health champions.

At Housing Partners, we recognise that stress has a powerful impact on various aspects of our lives – it doesn’t just affect our mood, energy levels or work performance, it can also exacerbate a wide variety of health conditions. We offer daily mindfulness sessions, encourage teamwork, socialise and train our managers to recognise those early signs of stress, so it doesn’t become a big problem.”

Olivia Hill, Mental Health First Aider, Housing Partners

At Housing Partners, we recognise that stress has a powerful impact on various aspects of our lives – it doesn’t just affect our mood, energy levels or work performance, it can also exacerbate a wide variety of health conditions. We offer daily mindfulness sessions, encourage teamwork, socialise and train our managers to recognise those early signs of stress, so it doesn’t become a big problem.”

Olivia Hill, Mental Health First Aider, Housing Partners

Increasingly workers’ wellbeing is claiming centrality for organisational success. Controlled studies have found that as little as $2 (US) investment in employee wellbeing can boost productivity by up to 20%. Apart from the drive to strengthen our own company’s culture the business imperative to address organisational mental health is striking. It is estimated that poor workplace mental health costs the UK economy £35 billion annually and over 15 million working days are lost to anxiety, stress and depression. The conversations around stress and mental health have been loud and clear for 2018 and 2019; now that stigmas have been broken, 2020 is the year to embrace real organisational and personal change.

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