Mental Health Awareness Week: Managing Stress And Mental Wellbeing In Workplace

Authored By: Morag Livingston | Publish Date: May 14, 2018

Stress or stressed. They’re two words that most of us use pretty regularly, possibly even daily.

Stress is one of those funny things. We often use the word as a point of reference for how we’re feeling, such as describing our work day as stressful, or perhaps the kids are stressing us out. For some, stress can be a positive thing, and they thrive on this bit of extra pressure, but for many this really isn’t the case. If stress and this pressure becomes too much, it can become utterly overwhelming and can lead to greater issues.

This is Mental ‘Health Awareness Week’ and this year the focus is on stress. Although stress isn’t recognised as a medical or mental health condition, it is closely linked to mental health, and according to the Mental Health Foundation, two-thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes with stress is a key factor in this.

Stem From Workplace

So, why am I talking to you about stress? Well, it’s simple really. Stress and the causes of stress can often stem from the workplace. Research published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) just last week highlights that employers have seen an increase in stress related absence this past year, and two of the top three causes of stress are work related; workload and problems with a manager.

As employers, we have a duty of care towards our employees and rather than being reactive, we should be putting strategies in place to help manage employee wellbeing. These strategies should also incorporate managing stress and mental wellbeing in the workplace.

For me, it starts with equipping managers and HR with the right skills and information to recognise the signs of stress and common mental health problems. I would encourage, and I’ve said this before, all organizations to have at least one mental health first aider within the organization, but ideally for me all managers should be trained to this standard.

The second point is openness. By talking about stress and mental ill health, we won’t be encouraging people to ‘go off sick’ with any of these conditions, but we will be making it easier for our employees to approach us if they are worried or struggling with a mental wellbeing issue. By talking about mental ill health, we can hopefully reduce further the stigma associated with mental health.

I would also encourage you to look at your benefits offering. Tackle absence in the workplace. Early intervention can help your people return to work quicker. Do you have an employee assistance programme (EAP)? Do your employees know about this? Make this information readily available for your employees. Remind them that they have this confidential telephone helpline or counselling service available to them.

Lead By Example

Finally, practice what you preach! Promote a healthy lifestyle and work/life balance. Lead by example and encourage employees to take their lunch breaks, use their annual leave allowance, and help them manage their workload and hours. Above all, encourage open communication and talk with your employees, be this a scheduled weekly or monthly catch up or just a quick conversation at the end of a busy week.

Our employees are one of our biggest assets, so it makes sense to support them by promoting and encouraging good employee wellbeing.

Morag Livingston is head of group risk and wellbeing at Secondsight.

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