Articles, information and support tools

    Ways to combat stress in the workplace

    Publish Date:

    21 May 2018

    How often do you hear people say they’ve been ‘stressed’ at work? Probably most days. But for thousands of employees this means more than just a throw-away comment.

    Stress is becoming an increasingly significant issue within UK workforces, with HSE data showing that 602,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2018/19, contributing to 12.8 million lost working days across the same period[1].

    In this article we’ll look at what employers and employees can do to help combat stress in their workplace and support colleagues who are struggling.

    Stress is becoming an increasingly significant issue within UK workforces, with HSE data showing that 602,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2018/19, contributing to 12.8 million lost working days across the same period[2].

    In this article we’ll look at what employers and employees can do to help combat stress in their workplace and support colleagues who are struggling.

    What can employers do to combat workplace stress?

    Employers can play an important role in managing workplace stress and ensuring that employees are coping with the day-to-day demands and pressures of their job. It’s in the company’s best interests too. Not only can prioritising staff’s mental health help attract and retain committed employees by showing you care, it can save the business significant amounts of cash. Deloitte’s January 2020 Mental Health  and employers study found that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion a year[3].

    Here are a few ways employers can help tackle stress in their workplace:

    • Create a stress awareness space: Mind recommends creating a stress awareness space where staff can share their thoughts and feelings when they are stressed. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy – just a meeting room or private corner.

    • Be aware of presenteeism – Employees who turn up to work despite struggling with mental health problems may not be doing the best thing for themselves or the company. If you spot someone struggling, make it clear that you would prefer them to recuperate properly rather than coming into work if they are not up to it. Similarly, if someone has been off work with stress, make sure their return to work is managed properly.

    • Make sure managers are properly trained: According to the BITC’s Mental Health at Work Report 2019, less than a quarter (11%) of line managers have received training on understanding workplace stressors[iv]. Making sure your managers are trained to spot the early warning signs of stress and offer the right support can prevent problems escalating. Our interactive online stress module can help HR and line managers to do this

    • Improve communications – Poor communication can be an underlying reason for workplace stress. Change at work can be a huge source of stress and while it won’t be possible or appropriate to keep staff updated about absolutely everything, communicating any upcoming changes and explaining what they mean is important. If you have any support tools available, for example an employee assistance programme (EAP), don’t forget to regularly remind your employees so they can make full use of them.

    • Be flexible – flexible working hours may help reduce workplace stress. While it won’t be suitable for all companies and employees, if flexible working is something you can offer, it may be worth considering introducing it. Even small changes like allowing people to leave early on a Friday could make a difference.

    What can employees do to help themselves and their colleagues?

    While there are changes that employers can implement to help their workers better cope with workplace stress, there are also lots of things that employees can do to help their colleagues, and themselves.

    • Reduce the stigma – People can be reluctant to talk about feeling stressed with their colleagues as they think they are the only person who is struggling to cope. If you have experience of dealing with stress, or another mental health problem, why not share your story and help reduce the stigma surrounding it? This doesn’t have to mean sharing with the whole company – you could just talk one-on-one with someone.

    • Share coping strategies – From deep breathing exercises to taking a walk in the fresh air at lunch, people often have their own strategies to help them cope with workplace stress. If you have something that works for you, share it with colleagues to see if it can help them.

    • Organise a get together - Getting together with friends and strengthening relationships is important for maintaining good mental health. Why not get colleagues together once a month for a good catch-up?

    Additional resources:

    • Our stress at work guide looks at some of the causes of stress and how employers can help their employees to manage it.

    [1] Work-related stress, depression or anxiety statistics in Great Britain, 2019. Health and Safety Executive (https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress.pdf)

    [2] Work-related stress, depression or anxiety statistics in Great Britain, 2019. Health and Safety Executive (https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress.pdf)

    [3] Mental health and employers: Refreshing the case for investment, January 2020 (https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/press-releases/articles/poor-mental-health-costs-uk-employers-up-to-pound-45-billion-a-year.html)

    [4] Mental Health at Work Report 2019, BITC, October 2019 (https://www.bitc.org.uk/report/mental-health-at-work-2019-time-to-take-ownership/

    Unum is not responsible for the content of any third-party websites.