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Employee Engagement Workplace Wellbeing

Let’s talk about stress

Stress is a serious topic that needs to be openly discussed in the workplace. The number of employees experiencing stress in your business might be more than you think.

Did you know:

  • 39% of employees report feeling ‘moderate stress’.
  • 22% of employees report feeling ‘stressed’.
  • 11% of employees report feeling ‘high stress’.
  • 3% of employees report feeling ‘extreme stress’. 1

What is stress?

Virgin Pulse Science Advisory Board member Dr David Batman, is a registered Occupational Health Consultant with a focus on mental health. He says feeling stress is a natural fight or flight response of the human body however, prolonged levels of stress are a concern.

“Stress becomes a problem for employees when they are presented with demands that exceed their knowledge, abilities and capacity to cope,” Dr Batman says. “Stressed employees may suffer recognised clinical problems such as anxiety, depression and associated sleep loss, and the resulting effects can damage an organisation on many levels.”

Stress can cause serious health implications, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability / anger
  • Depression
  • Loss of or increase in appetite

How is stress affecting your business?

“Frequent absence, staff turnover, low engagement, accidents and impaired productivity may all manifest in a culture where stress is prevalent.” Acknowledging the inevitable demands of the work environment, Dr Batman says it’s important to distinguish between pressure and stress.

“Pressure can be positive and a motivating factor and is often essential in a job. It can help us achieve our goals and perform better. But stress occurs when this pressure becomes sustained and excessive. It is a natural reaction to too much pressure that’s not sustainable in the long term.”

How businesses deal with stress

One important thing to note with stress in the workplace is that it’s unavoidable therefore all employers can do is equip employees with tools and advice on how they can better manage it. Dr Batman says that employers can play a great role in dealing with stress in the workplace.

“Assessing wellbeing at your workplace is also critical to developing new policies and practices. A good first step is to commission a survey. Managers should also maintain regular contact with their employees.”

“If there are marked changes in attendance, performance levels, mood or energy, approach the employee in private and ask if they are experiencing problems and if you can help. Then take the employee’s lead. You don’t ever want to create a situation where managers try and make a diagnosis.”

Tips to help deal with stress in the workplace

  • Encourage healthy lifestyles, activity and exercise at work and home
  • Respect employees’ personal time outside of work
  • Monitor engagement, sickness absence levels, staff turnover and accidents
  • Provide a sensible balance between work and life responsibilities
  • Create a culture where mental health and safety is discussed to reduce the stigma

Every business has to deal with stress in the workplace, it’s how you help your employees deal with stress and build resilience to stressful situations that can make a difference.

To read more on the affects of stress on the workplace and employers can better manage the effects, you can download our Mastering Stress Toolkit.

  1. Virgin Pulse Global Challenge Insights Whitepaper: Stress – The hidden threat in every workplace, 2014.