By Dr Julain Nesbitt
Raising awareness of the negative impact of stress has never been more crucial due to the rising cost of living, the Ukraine situation and increasing Covid rates. All these factors have led to many employees experiencing not just recognised work-related stress, such as overwhelming workload or workplace conflicts but new concerns such as job security and adapting to different workspaces.
Stress is a recognised medical condition, which if left untreated, can have a serious impact on individuals physical and mental wellbeing. Stress can manifest itself through various forms such as losing sleep, lack of focus, being irritable, experiencing headaches and pain in for example their chest or stomach.
Employers have a duty of care to their employees and must take measures to prevent employees from experiencing stress in their day-to-day jobs. With the social factors faced by most people in current times, employers have had to think outside the box and introduce or adapt their wellbeing policies to best support their employees during these uncertain times both within and outside of their jobs.
Some of the ways Employers can help support their employees are:
Covid forced organisations to ask their employees to work remotely from home. For many, this was a completely new way of working and for a lot of individuals this also meant a sudden removal from their social circle. Employers can help this transition by taking time to assess workstations employees have designed for themselves are suitable and aid good mental health such as desks being in a room with a natural light source.
Employers should also encourage and support healthy habits such as taking regular breaks (away from their desks), healthy eating (provide nutritional guides), and exercising regularly which is all crucial for our mental health. Likewise, they could also provide useful tips on how to stay motivated working from home, for example, continue to dress as though you were going into the office and implement a daily routine so as not to work more hours through the evening and weekends which could result in burnout.
Finally, employers should also make their employees aware that working from home should not put any extra financial burden on them and the company will pay for any equipment and stationery required to effectively carry out their job.
Working remotely has meant individuals using systems such as zoom and Microsoft teams to stay connected with their teams. For those individuals who have never used these systems or are not technically proficient, this could be extremely daunting. Employers should ensure all staff receive appropriate training on these systems to reduce the stress of having to set up and access these systems and ensure their IT departments are prepared for a higher volume of queries than may be typical.
Employers should also look to training their managers on how to identify potential causes of stress in their teams, particularly within a new remote working environment. It is also best practice for teams to have their cameras on so the managers can see their staff and look to recognise any stress signals in their staffs emotional, physical, or behavioural conduct and how to address any concerns they may have.
Staff working remotely from home, particularly in forced circumstances and for the first time, can lack a sense of belonging and connection to their organisation. It is therefore crucial to help employees to stay virtually connected to their employer. Regular business communications are always a great way for a company to bring keep its staff engaged; sharing updates and celebrating successes. Communicating regularly 1:1 with individuals also provides an open channel for support and re-assurance. Employers should ensure their staff are aware that support is always available to them and how they can approach the company for any support either internally or externally. Scheduling team social time has great mental health benefits, particularly for individuals who rely on their work colleagues as their social network.
During these unsettling times, Employers should take time to recognise their staff more either verbally or written, particularly in remote working environments where individuals can feel isolated and begin to doubt their contributions and worry about their job security. Studies have shown that a simple ‘Thank you’ can positively improve the recipient’s well-being and produce positive emotional states to help deal with stressful times.
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs):
Employers can look to offer free and anonymous support for employees and help alleviate mental health issues, financial stress, and overall wellbeing. There has also been a rise of online mental health platforms such as Dr Julian Medial Group where patients can either be referred by their local GP or match themselves to therapists of their choice, at a time that suits them and in the comfort in their own home; taking control of their own mental health. As well as speaking to a qualified and fully vetted Therapist, apps like Dr Julian can also provide resources and tips on how to practice mindfulness, deal with stressful moments and thoughts and other useful guidance.