There are jobs, and there are dream jobs. But even the most fantastic terms of employment come with a side of stress or bouts of anxiety. Anyone fruitfully employed will vouch that work-related stress is as real as gravity, and that a continued period can be overwhelming at the very least.
In the UK, out of 1.3 million workers reporting work-related ill-health in the period 2016-2017, a staggering 40% cases were due to stress, anxiety or depression. Here we explain what work-related stress is, current UK statistics, and how to manage it.
What is work-related stress?
By definition, work-related stress, depression or anxiety refers to a harmful reaction that people have to undue pressure or demands posed at work. The American Psychological Association postulates that when work stress becomes chronic, it can render harmful ramifications to both emotional and physical health.
Workplace stress doesn’t evaporate by taking a day off and its impact is far-reaching, spanning both personal and professional spheres of life. That’s why it’s important for any manager to recognise the signs of stress in their workplace. The signs to look for are:
- Frequent arguments, complaints and grievances amongst your team
- A high staff turnover and/or decreased performance
- Higher rates of sickness and reports of stress
As you can imagine, your workforce under stress is harming your team, and your business.
The Uk’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) calculates that a total of 12.5 million working days were lost due to stress, depression or anxiety issues amongst the labour force in 2016-17. The preferred source of measuring stress by the HSE is the Labour Force Survey (LFS), who split up the total number of newly identified cases of mental health illnesses in the work force for the years 2016-17 as follows:
A more in-depth look shows that stress afflictions are higher in certain job descriptions than others. In the three year period from 2014-2017, professional occupations reported most cases of stress at 2,010 cases per 100,000 people as compared to the average of 1,230 cases reported across all occupations.
The broader categories of skilled trades, elementary occupations & process and plant operatives exhibited substantially lower rates of work-related stress, depression or anxiety at 460, 760 and 620 cases per 100,000 workers, respectively.
Given the sheer number of working days lost due to stress, anxiety and depression alone, general productivity can be stepped up if the workplace is made more supportive an environment for employees. In order to manage workplace stress, employers and managers can take several steps:
Consulting your employees: Talking to your team about the stresses plaguing them, and taking remedial measures.
Communicating with your employees on a personal level: This cultivates a sense of being heard and understood, whilst being comforted that the organisation has got employees’ best interests in mind.
Dealing with workplace conflicts in a positive manner: Whilst creating a sense of camaraderie, this goes a long way in encouraging teamwork.
Avoiding unrealistic deadlines: There’s an optimum amount of stress that enhances efficiency. Beyond that however, stress can be counter-productive. Employers should be mindful of not over-exerting their employees.
Clarifying your expectations: Clearly defining KRAs and goals streamlines the workflow, giving employees a clear directions consistent with the company’s goals.
Offering rewards and incentives: Organisations must ensure that good behaviour is applauded verbally as well as publicly. Periods of high stress must be punctuated by ones with more relaxed deadlines.
Giving one’s employees the opportunity to participate in decisions that affect their jobs: It’s important to take their feedback and act on it in line with the company’s objectives.