How can we manage stress and mental health at work?

How can we manage stress and mental health at work?

Posted on May 21, 2020

How can we manage stress and mental health at work?

Every day roughly 42,000 workers are unable to work due to stress. That’s almost the entire Metropolitan Police Workforce.

Many people will tell you that a little bit of pressure will motivate them, and many of us will acknowledge that there is a line that separates pressure that is manageable and pressure that has a negative impact on our lives.

When the pressure we are under makes it difficult for us to live and work and has an impact on our emotional wellbeing and physical health, we are stressed. Stress can often lead to anxiety and depression.

Work-related stress and mental health problems often go together, and the symptoms can be very similar. Work can also aggravate pre-existing conditions, and problems at work can bring on symptoms or make their effects worse.

Whether work is causing the health issue or aggravating it, employers have a legal responsibility to help their employees. Work-related mental health issues must be assessed to measure the levels of risk to staff.

Causes of stress at work

There are six main areas that can lead to work-related stress if they are not managed properly. These are: demands, control, support, relationships, role and change.

For example, employees may say that they:

  • are not able to cope with the demands of their jobs
  • are unable to control the way they do their work
  • don’t receive enough information and support
  • are having trouble with relationships at work, or are being bullied
  • don’t fully understand their role and responsibilities
  • are not engaged when a business is undergoing change

By talking to your employees and understanding how to identify the signs of stress, you can prevent and reduce stress in your workplace.

Signs of stress

If people start acting differently, it can be a sign they are stressed. Managers should look out for signs of stress in teams and employees, and think about whether the stress could be linked to work pressure.

Acting early can reduce the impact of pressure and make it easier to reduce or remove the causes. If managers are worried that an employee is showing some of these signs, they should encourage them to see their GP. These signs can be symptoms of other conditions. If there is something wrong at work, and this has caused the problem, managers should take action.

Help for employees on stress at work

If you are stressed you may notice changes in the way you think or feel, and may act differently, for example:

  • eat more or less than usual
  • smoke, drink or take drugs 'to cope'
  • have difficulty sleeping

If you are feeling signs of stress at work, it is important to talk to someone, for example your manager. If you talk to them as soon as possible, it will give them the chance to help and stop the situation getting worse.

If the pressure is due to what your line manager is doing, find out what policies are in place to deal with this. If there aren’t any, you could talk to your trade union representative, an employee representative, the HR department, an employee assistance programme or counselling service if your company has these, or your GP.

Many employees are unwilling to talk about stress at work, because of the stigma stress has. But stress is not a weakness, and can happen to anyone.

If you feel you have a problem, the sooner you do something about it, the better – it can stop you becoming more unwell.

Help your manager to identify problems and needs. Make use of appraisals and informal chats to discuss tasks, work environments, times of the day or being part of a particular team that are difficult. If you feel you have a mental health problem, it is a good idea to raise it with your line manager, HR department or someone else in the workplace.

There may also be things that you can do for yourself at work. The important thing is to recognise what helps improve your mental health when you are working, for example:

  • Taking your lunchbreak away from your work
  • Keeping your workspace clear
  • Taking short breaks
  • Taking a short walk
  • Doing breathing exercises

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