Survival Guide: Stress at Work
Recognising and addressing employee mental health is a fundamental aspect of effective management. As we embrace Stress Awareness Month, how can you as an employer ease the burden of stress, offer support and help your employees achieve a work-life balance? Here, it’s important to foster a warm and supportive work environment and remember that stress symptoms can vary from person to person and team to team.
10 signs of stress to look out for
Stress-related symptoms generally fall into three categories: emotional, mental, and behavioural. Taking a closer look at them therefore makes it clear why it’s important to identify and support stressed employees. Usually, it’s a case of workers starting to act differently. For example:
Working longer hours
Keep an eye out for employees who suddenly start staying at work later and later, or coming in earlier and earlier. Similarly, teams under stress may collectively put in extra hours to cope with increased demands or deadlines.
An uplift in irritability, twitchiness, and nervousness could be down to stress. This may be observed in both individual employees and within a team setting, where tension and conflict may arise more frequently.
It’s not unusual for people who are stressed to struggle to sleep at night. If you have an employee or a team member who’s coming to work visibly tired on a regular basis, it could be a tell-tale signal pointing towards stress.
Shying away from others
How does your overall team cohesion look? When employees face stress, they may retreat to avoid drawing attention to themselves and withdraw from interactions with their colleagues.
Working through breaks
Similar to employees who suddenly begin coming in early and staying late, employees who stop taking breaks and start using their lunch breaks to catch up on work could be stressed about their workload.
Time off patterns
Are any of your employees not booking time off? Reluctance to take entitled time off could be a sign that an employee is worried they’ll fall behind with their workload. Conversely, employees who begin arriving late on a regular basis or start booking more time off than usual may be avoiding the workplace due to stress-related issues.
Concentration and memory lapses
An uncharacteristic lapse in memory and concentration could be an indicator of distraction caused by stress, both in individual employees and within teams. Recognising these signs can help prevent decreased performance and more mistakes.
If an employee is stressed due to work, it’s likely they’ll be increasingly sensitive and emotional – especially when it comes to work-related interactions. Similarly, teams under stress may experience more complaints, grievances, and conflicts.
Lack of energy
Stress can take both a mental and physical toll. If an employee who’s normally full of energy begins displaying signs of constant lethargy and illness, this could be alarming. Likewise, teams under stress may exhibit decreased performance overall, and increased sickness absence.
If work is the cause of an employee’s stress, they might begin to withdraw themselves from anything associated with work – like out-of-work activities or interactions with colleagues. This can also manifest within teams, where members may distance themselves from team-building activities or exhibit a lack of collaboration.
How employers can ease the burden of stress
To create a work environment that prioritises wellbeing, employers should approach the above signs with empathy and understanding, and foster a culture that values self-care – all while encouraging a healthy work-life balance. But what does that mean?
Let’s look at ways to support stressed employees.
Providing employees with some control over their work hours can increase satisfaction. Flexibility allows employees to organise their day according to what works best for them, so they can pursue their personal interests to ultimately achieve a better work-life balance.
If feasible, allow employees to work remotely or implement a hybrid approach to working. Reducing commute time and providing flexibility in work location can alleviate stress and give employees more time for personal obligations.
Have you wondered how much time your employees get to have to themselves? Ensure they have time for their hobbies, so they can relax and recharge. Give them a nudge to log off right after their working hours and encourage them to use their time off.
Keep it healthy
Make it easy for employees to access health services by offering telehealth options, onsite medical care, or wellness clinics. In addition, activities like healthy cooking demonstrations and wellness programs can be included in their employee benefits, providing them with valuable takeaways and opportunities to unwind during the workday.
Offer them resources
Offer them educational resources on stress reduction strategies such as exercise, maintaining social connections, and good sleep habits. You could, for instance, promote wellness webinars and utilise employee assistance programs, or even share a few materials with them about wellbeing and mental health to support employees.
What’s their take?
Conduct surveys or focus groups to get a sense of the situation. By directly asking employees what they need, you can understand what management styles, workflows, or employee recognition systems could work better and why.
Overall, why not try doing regular check-ins, and remember to put yourself in other people’s shoes while you’re at it? This way, employers tend to see a happier workforce, higher productivity, a welcoming workplace culture, and better staff retention, too.
Finally, say it with an employee gift
Bear in mind that employee recognition helps them feel appreciated, leading to reduced stress. Redeemable in hundreds of stores around the UK, online, and at George.com, Asda for Business gift cards and Asda e-gift cards are the perfect way to say “thank you”. From healthy food options, active exercise or meditation equipment, and relaxation aids—like baths, candles, and aroma diffusers— our corporate gift cards offer many ways to ease stress. Employee gifting also helps with the cost-of-living crisis, encouraging them to look after themselves just that little bit more.