Workplace stress is common, so in Stress Awareness Month, I want to explore the cause of stress and what can be done to better manage stress in the workplace.

The Workplace Community

The theme for this year’s Stress Awareness month is community. A thriving community is one where there are connections, shared experiences, support and a sense of belonging. Being part of a community involves using your skills to improve things for all. It can help individuals to cope with life’s challenges and gain a sense of purpose.

We typically think of community as being where we live, our neighbourhood, but a community also exists in our workplace. In some organisations, the sense of community is strong. Whilst stressful situations still occur, the chances of them being sustained and having a significant impact on wellbeing are reduced. This brings benefits to the employer, their employees and their customers.

What are the Main Causes of Workplace Stress?

Stress is a psychological and physical response when an individual has insufficient resources to cope with the demands of a situation. It is more likely to occur when the situation is unexpected, unfamiliar and out of the individual’s control.

Research* has identified 5 main causes of workplace stress:

  • Factors intrinsic to the job, including the working conditions and hours of work
  • Demands of the role, including the levels of responsibility, managing conflict of interests and complaint handling
  • Career development including under or over promotion and lack of job security
  • Relationships including discrimination, personality clashes and issues with delegation
  • Organisational structure, including a lack of processes, financial instability and no involvement in decisions

Reducing Stress at Work

Knowing the main causes of stress can help employers to instigate measures to reduce it. Within a strong workplace community, the business is likely underpinned by good infrastructure. Staff are recruited for their skills and attitude, with training and development provided to develop their competence and confidence. Effective management empowers the team, organises the work and recognises individuals’ contributions. Opportunities for collaboration, flexible working and employee-led initiatives are considered.

Training on stress management is also beneficial to mental wellbeing. It builds awareness of the signs of stress and our responses to it. With greater understanding, employees can take action to reduce their exposure to triggers and learn coping mechanisms. Training also invites discussion and may reveal causes of stress that could be addressed or removed.

Responding to Stressful Situations

An individual’s resilience to stress is also affected by what is occurring outside of the workplace. As an example, a last-minute request to work late to meet a deadline may be no issue to some employees who welcome the overtime pay. For others, such as those with caring responsibilities, it triggers stress. Who can they call on to help?

Coping with Stress

Our thought process when stressed can quickly spiral away from logic, so as soon as you feel the panic rising, try to take control. This often means stopping what you are doing for a few minutes and taking some deep breaths. You may need to step away from the concern and, if possible, even go for a quick walk.

When you feel calmer, look at the cause of stress objectively; you might consider:

  • Is this a priority or are another’s demands making it feel like this should take president?
  • What resources or support are available to you?
  • Are there other options that could lead to the desired outcome?

Remember that no one can do it all, time is finite, so it can be helpful to break down the challenge into smaller chunks. What action can you take now to start moving things forward?

Be willing to ask for help and share the fact that you are feeling stressed. It becomes easier to face a challenge when you are not going it alone and there will likely be a chance to return the favour.

Reducing Stress at Work

Stress at work is inevitable, however, measures put in place by the organisation and coping strategies adopted by the employees can reduce the causes and impact of stressful situations. Mindset services include stress risk assessments (for individuals and organisations) as well as stress management training and workshops to support stress reduction at work.

These measures can lead to a more harmonious work environment. They can also significantly reduce absences and resignations caused by stress which are costly to the business and disruptive to other team members.

What measures has your organisation implemented to reduce workplace stress?

 

* https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1740194/pdf/v059p00067.pdf

Further reading:

https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/culture/well-being/stress-factsheet#gref