A stressed employee isn’t a productive employee and a stressed leadership team will make bad decisions that can cost your company money. 

The 21st century can be a stressful place. With a constant new cycle of doom and gloom; global pandemics and rising inflation, is it any wonder lots of UK adults are saying they’re stressed.

What’s even more fascinating is: with all the things happening in the news and around the world, workplace stress is still cited as one of the leading causes of stress in the UK. Out of the top ten things UK adults said they were stressed about, their workload and work in general appeared in the top ten. 

Workplace stress isn’t just bad for business, it can have real and long-lasting effects on your team and even yourself. But by reviewing and changing your workplace practices and culture, you can go a long way in negating the negative effects workplace stress has on your business and your employees. 

Happy employees are more productive and stay at companies longer, so look after them and they’ll look after you.    

In this article, we’ll share the history of National Stress Awareness Day, look at the statistics that show the UK is a stressed nation and we’ll share our top 6 tips for improving mood and reducing stress in your workplace. 

What is National Stress Awareness Day?

National Stress Awareness Day happens on the first Wednesday of every November. The day is designed to reinforce the fact that you’re not doing yourself any favours by stressing about situations you can’t control. 

National Stress Awareness Day is a sponsored event by the International Stress Management Association (ISMA). ISMA is a registered charity that promotes knowledge about stress, best practices for stress management and well-being.

The day was founded by Carole Spiers, the chairperson of ISMA. She founded the day to increase public awareness around stress and to help people recognise, manage and reduce stress in their everyday lives.

Chronic stress can lead to impaired cognitive and physiological functions. National Stress Awareness Day was founded to teach people how to hone their stress, choose positive thoughts over negative ones and help them manage their stress. 

Is the UK a nation of stress heads?

A recent study by HR software provider CIPHR revealed that almost four in five (79%) of adults in the UK felt stressed at least once a month. The study also showed that work-related issues were a leading cause of this stress.  

The study also showed only one in five (21%) of the 2000 adults surveyed, described themselves as ‘stress-free’. Furthermore, nearly half (49%) of the adults surveyed, said they were affected by stress at least five days a month and nearly a third (30%) said stress affected them for ten days or more each month. For these people, stress is having a constant, debilitating effect on their lives. 

When asked to identify the main causes of their stress, a large proportion of respondents (84%) blamed their work or career in some way. You can see a breakdown of their answers below:

23% said work in general was a cause of stress in their lives.

18%, or one in five, said it was their heavy workload that was causing stress.

14% cited long working hours as a cause for stress.

11% mentioned struggles with colleagues.

10% said their relationship with their boss was getting them down.  

The figures above highlight just how much of an influence work has on an individual’s stress levels. Things like unrealistic workloads, time pressures, overbearing bosses and toxic employees can all trigger severe stress. This stress can then interfere with an employees focus, energy and have a negative impact on their engagement, productivity and, ultimately, their personal health and wellbeing. 

The survey did cite other main causes of stress too. These were:

Lack of sleep (39%)

Financial anxieties (39%)

General health (35%)

Family issues (35%)

Weight worries (28%)

While these reasons for stress are outside an employer’s control, they do highlight how bombarded we are with stressful things in our everyday life. Reducing or removing work-related stress from an individual can have a positive impact on the other areas of their life. This in turn can improve a person’s mood and quality of life both within and outside of work so it should be an employer’s duty to help reduce stress however they can.    

Our top 6 tips for reducing stress in your office

At first, reducing stress in your office can seem like a difficult task. What is causing the stress and how can you help fix the issue? Reducing workplace stress isn’t as straightforward as hitting some quarterly KPIs or a sales target but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Our 5 tips below, will help you create a stress free work environment. 

Use HR software to help manage the stress in your workplace

HR software is a great tool to use if you want to better understand the stresses and issues your employees are having. Many HR platforms have anonymous surveys and feedback forms that let employees tell management what’s troubling them without them being scared of upsetting someone.

When feedback is anonymised it helps leadership get to the real problems in their business as they aren’t being told what they want to hear by staff. Collecting all this data together and analysing it lets HR teams spot what’s causing stress within their workplace and they can put strategies in place to tackle those causes of stress. 

HR software also helps the HR department solve their own stress related issues by automating and streamlining their processes. If your HR team is struggling to keep up with their work or they’re reaching burnout then investing in some new HR technology could help. You can use our HR System Selection Tool to help you find the right product for your needs or contact us here to find out how we can help.    

Encourage workplace wellness activities and initiatives

Two of your best weapons against workplace stress are healthy living and exercise. Being physically active takes employees’ minds off the stress of their job, clears their mind and lets them throw all their pent-up energy into a run, swim or circuit. Exercise also improves mood by producing endorphins, the brain’s happy chemical. 

Some ways you can encourage wellness activities include:

  • Encourage a lunchtime walking club
  • Subsidise gym memberships 
  • Bring a yoga instructor into the office once a month 
  • Offer healthy snacks in the office

Looking after employees’ health shows them you value them. A recent study by Peapod.com showed that 66% of employees felt extremely happy when their employer regularly stocked the fridge and 83% of people said having healthy snacks in the office was a big peak for them. 

Simple things like this show your employees you care and give them a way to destress. Two big factors in reducing work related stress. 

Revamp your office habitat

Environment is a key cause of stress. Whether it’s a cluttered boardroom, a messy work station or the office decor is drab and oppressive, these things can all have a big impact on the wellness of your team. 

Consider an office colour scheme which is bright and vibrant, add additional plants to your space or new desks and artwork. Creating an inviting environment helps relax employees and gives them a little boost everyday when they walk into a place they enjoy seeing.    

Allow flexible hours and remote working

The ongoing pandemic has seen most companies adopt remote working, at least for a while. But as we come out of that unprecedented time, many businesses are seeing the benefits of flexible and remote working both on productivity and stress levels. 

You hired your employees because you have confidence in their abilities and you know they can do their job in a timely manner. You should give them the trust and autonomy to do that. Offices shouldn’t feel like cells but rather places to facilitate creative work and problem solving. Judge your employees on their work, not the time they’ve spent in the office. 

Giving your employees some flexibility on how and when they work is great for office morale and means if someone is having a stressful day they can stop their work and pick it up at a time that’s better for them.  

Create a quiet space in the office

Stress at work can’t be completely avoided. Work is work after all and sometimes it will be stressful, just like anything in life. But offering places within your office where people can manage and dissipate that stress is important if you want to stop your staff from becoming over-stressed. 

Having an area in your office where employees can take a break, unwind can really help to reduce stress. This could be a lounge space, a small room or even a bench outside. These can all be refuges from the everyday grind and provide employees with a 5 minute, stress free respite in what is otherwise a stressful day. 

Another way you can create a quiet space or calm within your company is with initiatives like “No Meetings Monday” or something similar, where you block off time or a day in the week to let staff focus on their own admin and work backlog without being bothered by colleagues or leadership.  

Appreciate your employees

Telling your team and employees you appreciate their hard work and praising them for a job well done is one of the best things you can do to reduce stress. Recognising successful results from team members makes them happier and more comfortable in your business and helps to reduce their stress levels. 

Do you need a hand managing the stress levels in your business?

Managing workplace stress is a difficult task. Everyone experiences stress differently so finding a one size fits all approach to managing stress in your workplace can be hard. But Phase 3 can help. We’re a HR and Payroll consultancy that can advise HR departments on the best processes and initiatives they can adopt to reduce stress in their companies. If you like to find out how we can help you contact us here