How Can You Help Mitigate Stress in Your Workplace?

Every year the International Stress Management Association (ISMAUK) runs a campaign to raise awareness of stress around the world and improve the ways in which stress is managed in the workplace and in our personal lives.   Stress is the body’s…

Aoife Travers author of blog about mitigating stress in the workplace

Blog1st Nov 2023

By Aoife Travers

Every year the International Stress Management Association (ISMAUK) runs a campaign to raise awareness of stress around the world and improve the ways in which stress is managed in the workplace and in our personal lives.  

Stress is the body’s natural response to threats, challenges and pressures. Stress responses help your body adjust to new situations and can be positive- keeping us alert, motivated and ready to avoid danger. However, excessive or prolonged periods of stress can lead to physical and mental health issues. A study carried out by the CIPD and Simplyhealth (2023), found that 76% of SME’s, and 92% of large organisations reported stress related absence in the past 12 months. According to the study, heavy workloads are the leading cause of stress-related absence (67%), followed by management style (37%).  

Employees nationally have been impacted by the skills shortage and low unemployment rates that we see in 2023, heavy workloads are a bi-product of this and have undoubtedly had an impact on workload-related stress. It is widely recognised that lack of control is one of the significant impactors of stress. Employees with heavy workloads can be feel that they are losing control of their routines and activities both inside and outside of work.  

Workplace stress can be addressed and positively impacted through the adoption of employee assistance programmes, sick pay schemes, wellbeing days, generous holiday allowances and providing opportunity for physical activity and meditation. However, to see the biggest impact on workplace stress, looking at company culture is paramount.  

  1. Looking at the ways in which employees work and through policies and processes developing a culture of flexibility in terms of location and work hours is highly effective by giving a level of control back to employees. According to the American Psychological Association, allowing employees to have a say in work hours, location, and communication style can help them feel more invested in their work and less stressed about meeting commitments. Work-life balance is a hot topic for good reason, we live in a fast-paced world where it can be hard to disconnect and recharge. That’s why it’s essential to find ways to support employees’ goals to achieve healthier habits and routines. The average UK employee spends 260 hours on commuting to work each year, adopting a hybrid approach with flexibility in terms of work location affords up to 260 additional hours to the average UK employee to spend with their families, on their hobbies and on maintaining a balanced home and work life. Adopting flexibility in work hours means that employees can fit their work lives into their personal lives in a healthy, balanced way. Benefits of flexibility at work are tenfold, both for employees and employers. Healthier employees are happier, more productive, and more likely to stay with your company in the long run.  
  2. Invest in leadership development – give your leadership team the skills and tools required to work with employees in a positive and constructive way. Managers with skills for managing conflict, having difficult conversations, and emotional intelligence make for better communication within teams and an awareness of stress, and triggers and how to respond to these. Develop empathetic, understanding leaders who employees are confident to confide in, and push back on, when work demands get too much.  
  3. Above all, the most influential step you can take as a business leader is to lead by example. If your employees see you working around the clock, de-prioritising health and wellbeing, not taking holidays or breaks – they’re more likely to follow suit. Leaders need to look inwards and be aware of the culture that gets created around them based on their behaviours.  

This year the theme is ‘Beyond Stress Management: From Stigma to Solutions’ encouraging employers internationally to break down the barriers to finding solutions, by starting the conversation within their own organisations and across their networks.  

How can you as an employer break down that stigma, and support employees who are experiencing stress?  

  • Educate managers and employees on mental health and how best to respond in the workplace through workshops, online resources and training. 
  • Establish a positive working environment by minimising workplace risks to mental health, such as job stress. 
  • Develop workplace mental health and wellbeing policies.  
  • Communicate the commitment to equal opportunity and privacy–this will help develop a safe and inclusive culture in the workplace. 
  • Speak openly about mental health in the workplace, especially those at leadership level, which can make others feel more comfortable to do the same. 
  • Have regular conversations with staff and check on their wellbeing. 

Protecting your employees from work-related stress makes sense from a moral, legal and financial standpoint. Morally, employee wellbeing should be a priority for every organisation and every employee should have an equal opportunity to succeed, regardless of their mental health. Legally, organisations have a duty of care to safeguard staff from the causes and effects of stress at work and to respond to cases of work-related stress. From a financial perspective, work-related stress causes the loss of over 17 million days of work and billions of pounds in the UK annually.  

According to the CIPD and Simplyhealth report (2023), over three quarters of organisations are taking steps to identify and reduce stress. Be a part of this positive statistic. If you need support developing a health and wellbeing strategy, or strategy to reduce stigma associated with mental health and wellbeing at work get in touch with Aoife Travers, or your usual AAB People contact. 


By Aoife Travers

Related services

Share this page