Stress at Work

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Historically, employers have struggled to identify employees suffering from stress, before it is too late and absences occur.

Workplace stress can be avoided

Studies have shown that 1 in 6 employees in the UK are affected by depression/anxiety which costs businesses over £26 billion per year.

Two problems can be identified in relation to this, first is a lack of ability by employers and their managers to identify the tell-tale signs of stress, for example lack of concentration, constant worrying, poor judgement and frequent absences for ailments. Early identification of the symptoms can prevent the condition spiralling.

The second problem, but maybe the most important, is employers' inability to prevent stress occurring in the first place. The culture in the City, law firms and in many office based jobs is long hours. Most employees have smartphones and tablets which mean they are always contactable outside office hours, they therefore feel obliged/compelled to deal with their emails 24/7.

So Where is the Off Switch?

Some employees feel pressurised into not taking their full holiday entitlement because no one else is and the culture for it to be taken is frowned upon. This is particularly common place in certain City financial institutions. Many businesses are recognising that this type of environment causes stress and anxiety in employees and affects their productivity and the firm's profit.

The money and time they have invested in recruiting and training their employees is lost when they leave or take long term absence (sick-leave). It is reported that the average cost to a business in replacing an employee is anything from £30,000 up to £75,000 for senior staff.

A firm also gets a reputation for a 'sweat-shop' culture and will then not attract the calibre of employees that they desire or they will lose people that they value and have invested in. The work/life balance has to be right for employees to stay or be attracted to a firm. A number of firms are recognising this more and trying to do something about it.

Mental Health

City Mental Health Alliance, an umbrella group, is seeking to raise awareness with businesses about mental illness, breaking down the stigma and offering advice on mental health in the workplace. There are currently 26 companies signed up.

Firms are encouraging employees to take their full holiday entitlement and to leave their smartphones at home. Increasingly businesses are offering flexible working for their employees. The ability to work from home or shorter working days has transformed the working life of many employees, in particular working mothers.

The opportunity to take a child to school or pick them up at least one day a week will earn the company a huge amount of 'brownie points'. It has proved to instil a sense of loyalty in a lot of employees who will in turn go that extra mile for their employer because they have been offered flexible working.

Stress Relief

Massages are offered at many places of employment, at employees desks in their lunch breaks. Some firms even have meditation rooms to allow employees some quiet down time during their day. Free yoga classes at lunchtime or cheap gym memberships have proved to help employees reduce their stress levels, which in turn increases the productivity for the employers and provides a better environment to work in.

A Happy Workforce is a Productive Workforce.

Some employers have set up buddy systems where employees with concerns can speak to someone other than their boss, rather than fretting about issues at their desk. Mental Health First Aid, a charity that provides training, also advises companies to encourage managers to give better feedback to staff. They also suggest tasks that make them feel they are making a positive contribution beyond growth and profits. This can help increase good health and general wellbeing amongst staff.

Let's face it, we spend more time during the daytime hours at work than we do at home, so it is extremely important that the work environment is as stress free as possible for everybody's benefit.


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