Do you worry about the effects stress has on your body and everyday life? A study by YouGov has shown that in the past year, 74% of people have felt so stressed they’ve been overwhelmed or unable to cope. The study went on to find that 46% said that they ate too much or ate unhealthily due to stress. A further 29% reported that they started drinking or increased their drinking of alcohol due to stress in their life.
The effects of this on our health can be anything from insomnia to depression, heightened blood pressure, migraines and much more. Stress is a serious and under-acknowledged threat across the UK and Ireland, with many experts agreeing not enough is being done to raise awareness and address the root causes of the problem.
When it comes to the causes, another study conducted at Forth found that the workplace was specifically one of the most cited reasons for experiencing stress . It found that 85% of respondents experienced stress ‘regularly’ at work. With these types of numbers one has to ask, could employers be doing more to help their employees work a healthier, happier, lower-stress day?
Stress is of course a normal part of life, we will always have something to worry about, as is our nature. We also need to acknowledge that too much stress is damaging and we should be implementing strategies and self-care for our minds just as we (try) to exercise regularly and minimise the cheeky ‘just eat’ deliveries.
The employer has significant power to influence working conditions and atmosphere, there’s a plethora of small, easily implementable but impactful actions an employer / manager can take to give their staff the best chances of shaking off the stress to live a happier working life. A small smorgasbord for your consideration below:
An area for relaxation
Create a zone away from work, noise and distraction where staff can go and relax. It’s important that employees are able to escape their work life and get appropriate and effective breaks – we all know this is the law but there is a massive difference between 10 minutes at your desk while still ‘in the mix’ and physically detaching yourself from that space.
Allocating a designated space to relax helps staff adopt an alternate state of mind as they’re essentially taking a mini commute to a new environment, with new stimulus. Activities here can vary but encourage staff to minimise screen time; read a book, listen to music or even nap. There’s growing traction of companies creating nap areas in their staff rooms to help employees get in a power nap.
Facilitating the right diet
This is an interesting one. Obviously you can’t dictate what your staff eat, but you can encourage a good diet to help with combatting stress. It’s important to provide this service particularly in people’s weaker moments, which typically happens to be in the office; energy slumps, stress eating and the ‘’quick ’n’ easy’’ junk food is often the go-to but is an obvious no-no, make us sluggish and tired with erratic sugar spikes.
Why not reduce the number of ‘bad’ items from your vending machines in favour of complementary fresh fruit? It’s a great way to help reduce stress as well as increase employee productivity. Topping up with Vitamin rich fruit that steadily releases energy means you’re more likely to be productive, switched on and less prone to the dreaded energy slump. You’ll also improve your immune system and be less prone to the common winter misery of colds, coughs and so on.
The benefits of providing free healthy snacking alternatives at the office can also be felt psychologically by staff. A study by London based office fruit provider Fruitful Office found that following introductory trials of weekly office fruit basket deliveries:
79% of staff said the fruit made them “feel more valued as an employee”
81% of staff said the introduction of office fruit improved “Quality of life in the office”
So you’re helping to tackle the root causes of stress on multiple fronts with one simple gesture.
Saying the right thing
If you find a staff member struggling with stress, ensure you give the right advice and counsel as a manager. You could provide information for charities that help with mental health, like Mind, or the Samaritan. Taking higher initiative and working with the person to develop a working plan that helps them to cope on a practical level will often be an effective first step. i.e., do they need more time to complete a deadline? Do they need flexible working hours? Do you need to analyse inter-team relationships to identify common pain points across the staff?
Often the simple act of acknowledging, accepting and supporting a member of your team is a massive step in the right direction for effective stress management. Cultivate a positive and supportive atmosphere.
This goes hand in hand with the previous point – It’s important that employers touch base with their staff regularly to ensure all is well. This could be an open door policy i.e. a physical open door – a welcome and a ‘come and chat with me’ signal, or just regularly reminding staff that they are free to contact you whenever they like, however they like about whatever is troubling them.
Often the first steps to someone opening up about difficult mental health options can be easier communicated over something like email or text instead of a direct face-to-face chat right away.
Consider creating a mental health policy for work – many employers who value mental health and seek to support their staff members find that their employees are more loyal, productive and dedicated to the business in the long run.
To summarize, be a positive and proactive presence in the office environment. Look for opportunities to support your team in all aspects of their daily life and you will become not only a better manager but another swing in momentum to normalizing mental health in every 9-5 across Ireland.
This article first appeared on Your Coffee Break.