Insurance · 14 October 2015

Workplace stress: Is it possible to reduce and what are the signs?

It's important to be able to recognise the signs of stress
It’s important to be able to recognise the signs of stress

Are you feeling tired and worn down? If so the chances are that you will not be the only one in your business who feels like that.

Most of us are bombarded during the day: emails, phone calls, meetings, messages and sudden, urgent deadlines work to make us more distracted than ever.

Stress affects everyone differently, but it is known that in some cases it can lead to serious emotional and physical health problems. Recognising the signs of and effects stress can have, both physically and emotionally is a good first step.

Workers affected by stress can find it difficult to concentrate, make decisions and even learn new things. They may seem more pessimistic than usual, be easily irritated and abrupt and seem moody and distracted. You might notice a drop in work performance, a lower tolerance of frustration, disinterest and an increase in sick days or absenteeism.

Stress can cause people to make mistakes, become anxious and tire easily. These effects are likely to have an impact on performance long before stress leads to ill health. High levels of stress can lead to depression and anxiety. They can also lead to headaches, fatigue, insomnia, stomach disorders, hypertension, and high blood pressure.

It’s important for businesses to protect employees. The good news is there are many things you can do to help your employees manage stress at work and help alleviate the impact of a busy workload and the ability of your employees to cope.

It is important to create a healthy work culture that helps to maintain the wellbeing of your staff. Consider taking out company healthcare insurance for your staff. Bupa’s counselling service, which is included as part of its package for small businesses, offers your employees practical advice and help on issues that may be impacting on their performance such as stress. Sometimes a sympathetic ear is all that’s needed.

Look at your management practices and the culture in your office. Be objective – do they add to stress levels? What demands do you make of your staff? Do they have a good work/life balance?

How do you deal with conflict in the office? Is there a forum for staff to discuss issues that maybe affecting them at work?

A good approach to reducing job stress is to lead by example. Encourage and lead employees in simple stress relief activities, such as walking, healthy eating and even laughing. Don’t be afraid to have fun at work. It doesn’t always have to be serious.

Virtually any form of exercise can act as a stress reliever. You don’t have to be an athlete or even in shape, you can still make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management.

What about a starting a walking club? Not only is it free, a regular exercise program of brisk walking can boost a your immune system. Even low levels of aerobic exercise, such as 30 minutes, five days a week, can be effective.

Physical activity also helps increase the production of your brain’s endorphins. Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which can put a spring in your step every day.

After a brisk walk or even several lengths in a swimming pool, you’ll often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s problems and lost yourself in the exercise. If done regularly it can help to give you a new focus and remain calm.

Exercise is known to relax you and can also improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All of these exercise benefits can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command.

During the working day, if you or your employees are feeling overwhelmed or have come out of a difficult meeting and need to clear your heads, go for a quick walk. Take a few deep breaths. Look up at the sky. Listen to some calming music.

If you feel bombarded by emails you can decide to answer them during certain periods in the day and encourage your employees to do so too. This is not only a good time management principle, but will also help improve concentration levels and lessen distractions.

Most of us go through the day thinking that the longer we are in the office, the more we’ll get done. Instead, productivity goes down, stress levels go up and you have very little energy left. Look at how you manage your time and consider where you and your employees can make improvements that don’t keep you stuck in the office.

Any investment in time and resources
in managing stress will pay for itself in the form of a healthier workforce and workplace environment and in the long- term sustainability and improved social responsibility of your business.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Nicola Green is head of direct sales and retention for Bupa UK, leading a team providing services businesses with up to 250 employees. She has been with the company for more than 20 years, acquiring a broad understanding of a business’ needs when it comes to providing healthcare for the workforce.

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