Keeping Pressure Positive: A guide to managing stress at work

Stress. It’s now just as much a part of our everyday office vocabulary as coffee, staples and Wifi.

But how much do businesses really understand about stress and its relationship with pressure, employee engagement and company performance? The latest national figures suggest that there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Stress-related illness is now the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, accounting for roughly 49% of all working days lost due to ill health. A recent national study led by HSE UK revealed that a total of 12.5 million working days were lost due to stress-related illnesses in 2017. It’s an issue that has spread across all industries and sectors, particularly professional services, administrative work and social welfare.

Whether at national or local level, the disruption this causes to day-to-day productivity and employee health cannot be overlooked by any business. Yet many modern employers still fail to recognise sources of stress in the workplace, not to mention the devastating impact it can have on bottom-line performance when left unchecked. Let’s take a closer look.

Why do we get stressed out at work?

Feeling under pressure from time to time is a natural part of life, especially as part of our jobs. In fact, we rely on these bursts of pressure to fulfil our potential and drive greater levels of performance. The problem is when we overload on pressure over a prolonged period of time, or we feel unable to cope with the pressure that certain situations or events place us under – this is where stress begins to creep in.

So what are the key factors at play here? Lack of control over workload is a major barrier to engagement at work and can easily lead to chronic stress over time. For many people, it’s not enough to simply understand their roles and responsibilities; they also need to feel trusted to do their job without being micromanaged at every turn.

Of course, autonomy needs to be underpinned by an effective support network so that employees know exactly where to turn if they need to discuss any issues. Staff must also have access to the right resources they need to do their job well. This covers everything from keeping the printer stocked with paper to providing training courses for those who are looking to develop their role across multiple areas.

Keeping pressure positive

Keeping a close eye on potential triggers and symptoms of stress before they have chance to wreak havoc on day-to-day productivity is no mean feat.

Managers and business owners must focus on nurturing a working culture that offers employees a combination of support and autonomy, and that also promotes positive working relationships between staff. All employees have to feel able to discuss stress-related problems before they have chance to spiral into long-term mental health issues.

Key factors that serve as a significant buffer to stress include:

  • Clarity around expectations
  • Having someone to confide in
  • Being in a role that plays to individual strengths
  • Regular and meaningful recognition
  • Understanding how your role fits in with the company mission

Striking the right balance between each of these areas is what keeps employees sustainably engaged over the course of months and years. We know this from having worked with countless organisations and management teams to design engagement and retention programmes that are tailored to their individual needs.

This is the only way to protect company performance, productivity and the most important asset available to any business – their people.

Want to find out more about the relationship between stress and employee engagement? Give us a quick call on 0161 883 1149 to talk through your needs.