April is Stress Awareness Month. The Mental Health Foundation found that 74% of UK adults have felt overwhelmed and unable to cope at some point during the last year. The keys concerns are feelings of disconnection, uncertainty, and a worrying loss of control.
It has been apparent, the level of stress placed upon schools during the last year and we have seen the line between work and home-life burring, with people working longer hours and sleeping less. This imbalance can reduce your ability to function productively, which in turn leads to working even longer hours, in order to finish the task in hand, which is unsustainable.
The return of children to the classroom, will have helped to reduce some of this stress, but for many people, their stress will continue to be present, whether it is work-related or personal.
Stress and mental health conditions are cited as one of the most common causes of long term sickness absence and stress is linked with physical health problems, such as heart disease, problems with the immune system, insomnia and digestive problems. Therefore workplace stress is a serious issue and it has no respect for position or seniority, but if you can begin to recognise the warning signs, then you can take actions to prevent yourself or others from reaching a breaking point.
It is important to acknowledge that it is not always possible to prevent stress, but you can minimise the risk .
Potential signs of stress are:
increased absenteesim, presenteeism (attending whilst sick), leavism (taking leave to catch up on work), arguments/disputes with colleagues, working late, not taking breaks, loss of sense of humour, irritability, decrease in work standards, indecisiveness, poor judgement, alcoholism, drugs, accidents at work, headaches, nausea, aches and pains, tiredness, poor sleeping patterns.
Stress can manifest differently in individuals, but the effects are generally negative and will be present for a period of time.
The 2021 theme for Stress Awareness Month is ‘Regaining Connectivity, Certainty and Control’. The first step is to understand how you react to stress and once this is clear, you will be in a better position to recognise stress in your employees.
Complete the Mental Health Wellbeing Questionnaire as a method to identify your possible stressors, warning signs and strategies. Then consider exploring the questions with an employee who is displaying possible signs of stress.
Steps can then be taken to reduce stress, such as: flexible working, one-to-one or small support groups for employees, counselling, networking, training, talking about stress and it’s effects, sharing coping mechanisms, and looking after yourself,
However, it is not always possible to prevent or eradicate, so you will need to find a way to manage your stress and that of your employees, which may involve, making time to ‘switch off’, finding new ways to live and enjoy life, prioritising and knowing expectations, and adopting a flexible approach.
We have previously talked about incorporating a Wellbeing Week into your daily routines, to support mental health, boost team spirit and to create a new normal that employees begin to expect, which will in turn create Connectivity, Certainty and Control. If you have not implemented this already, we would highly recommend that you give it a go and see how this can benefit your employees.