21st March, 2022.
As an internal communicator you have a lot of strings to your bow. One of those includes supporting employees with stress in the workplace. In this blog we explore the different steps that can be taken to educate and support employees.
Data from the Health and Safety Executive shows an enormous increase in stress, depression and anxiety in recent years.
A second study found that 79% of workers have experienced burnout with 35% reporting high or extreme levels.
The increases we have witnessed in recent years is a clear indication that we need to better support and education our employees.
Whilst stress can directly impact our mental health, it isn’t a recognised illness in its own right. That’s because some stress is good for us. Mild stress gives us determination and helps us get tasks completed. But it is this non-defined, sliding scale of stress that creates a number of challenges:
1) There are so many causes of stress. This chart from CIPR shows the most common causes of stress for the UK population:
While just two of these relate specifically to the workplace, all of the stress factors could influence behaviour and performance at work. When there are so many contributing factors, it can be difficult to identify what is causing our own stress and even harder again for line managers to pick up on.
2) We don’t always recognise when stress levels are starting to become unmanageable. When we all experience stress and there are so many contributing factors, it can be hard to recognise when our stress levels have become excessive. As a result, stress can go unmanaged for greater lengths of time and often lead to illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
3) Stress alone is often not perceived to be a big enough problem. The stigma of mental health is still prevalent particularly when talking about stress. One of the causes of this is the generalist way in which we use the term “stress”. For example, if we are experiencing ongoing financial problems, we would describe that as “stressful”. But we would also use the same word to describe a period of momentary stress such as doing a speech.
The two are very different. One could have a negative affect while the other could be beneficial. As a result, if someone is reaching their ‘tipping point’, using the term “stressed” to describe how they feel may be overlooked. It may even prevent them from speaking up in the first place.
We all have a role to play in educating and supporting each other in the workplace.
Ultimately as an employer you need to create a safe culture. One in which employees feel comfortable starting a conversation about how stress is impacting them. The more this can be focused on prevention and early intervention the better. Here are some suggestions of how you can achieve that:
Line managers play a massive part in supporting employees’ stress levels. But they are also a big cause of stress – the HSE reported that the main factors cited to be causing work-related stress, depression or anxiety are workload pressure and a lack of managerial support.
We need to better equip our line managers so they can become a support rather than a cause. Here are some suggestions to help line managers reduce employee stress:
As an internal communicator you have the gift of reach. You can communicate with a large proportion of your workforce in a way that few others in your organisation can. Your communications should span everything from prevention to support, from policies to individual stories. Here are our top tips to help reduce employee stress:
Whilst we are busy supporting others with their stress levels, we can sometimes forget about ourselves. Take a moment to complete this stress test to find out where your stress levels are. At the end you’ll also receive recommendations for things you can do to reduce your own stress.
Technology makes a significant difference to the awareness and support of employees. VRAMP is an internal communication tool that helps organisations better connect with their employees. Looking specifically at stress awareness and support, this is what VRAMP can do:
Find out more about how VRAMP can help you manage workplace stress by seeing a demo.
With over 15 years’ experience in communications I have seen first-hand the difference strong internal communications can make. I am passionate about helping organisations reap the rewards of an engaged workforce and feel privileged to work for an organisation that has this same passion. We can achieve so much more when we work together towards the same goals.