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Market access update

Beating work-related stress

Written by Christina Lawrence

Unmanageable workplace stress does not just affect the individual, it can damage the organization and impact its clients.

Work-related stress has reached a point where it is damaging US businesses to the cost of more than US$300 billion a year.1 As part of her employee wellbeing series, Christina Lawrence, Head of People, considers:

  • How can you identify overwhelming work-related stress?
  • What are the effects of negative workplace stress on an organization
  • Three strategies that employees can use to reduce stress at work

If you work in a client-facing organization, you will know first-hand that a little stress at work can be a great motivator. I am very fortunate because I work in a supportive company. I find that some stress actually helps me to meet deadlines, drives me to push boundaries, and motivates me to create new solutions.

This is echoed in many industries. In organizations where employees report manageable levels of stress, productivity is 12% higher than in workplaces where employees have unmanageable levels of stress and feel demotivated2.

Companies that thrive need to not only be aware of overwhelming workplace stress, but to actively work to reduce it. This gives employees the headroom to be productive and innovative, and enhances business performance.

How can you identify overwhelming work-related stress?

We all react differently to stress. The American Institute of Stress1 suggests that frequent headaches, excess anxiety, and fatigue are common signs of stress overload.

In your careers you may have noticed when colleagues lack the energy to be productive, find it hard to make decisions, or are consistently working long hours. These are all signposts that someone you work with may be experiencing an overwhelming amount of stress.

What are the effects of overwhelming workplace stress on an organization?

There are two main commercial costs of workplace stress for organizations: productivity and financial.

1. Productivity costs

If stress goes unmanaged, it can ultimately have a significant effect on an employee’s immune system that can lead to illness3 and absence. In the US, stress causes approximately one million workers to miss work every day.1

2. Financial cost

Stress that goes unchecked with an organization can result in medical insurance and compensation expenses, employee-turnover can increase, and it can be difficult to attract new talent if the organization has a poor reputation.

Three strategies that employees can use to reduce stress at work

The greatest asset of any company are its employees. Take care of them, and you take care of your business. It isn’t always easy to do this but the rewards pay dividends. PRMA Consulting has chosen to do this by investing in a coordinated mental health and wellbeing program to support our colleagues. Here are some of the things we have learnt along the way.

1. Resolve persistent challenges

If you experience overwhelming stress yourself, or see the signs in others, look for the cause and either report it or fix it. This stress risk-assessment template from the UK Health and Safety Executive will help you evaluate the stress points in your organization and implement the changes you should make to control the risks.

Another way that you can help to reduce stress is to set up a dedicated team to review workloads, improve efficiency, and drive productivity. We’ve done this at PRMA Consulting where our team has implemented solutions such as software that forecasts and plans workloads and systems that strengthen collaboration.

This helps us manage stress for colleagues and prevent overwhelming situations before they arise.

2. Look for the signals of workplace stress and burnout

There are always warning signs that stress is about to switch from motivational to destructive so the key is to promote a workplace environment that encourages openness. If employees fear they will be penalized or be seen as being “off message”, they will bottle things up. Listen when you hear conversations about:

  • Lack of control. If a colleague feels powerless to influence their own workload or the resources they can access, this can lead to workplace stress.

  • Work expectations that are unclear. Stress can be caused when an employee is unsure about how much authority they have in a project or does not know what colleagues expect from them.

  • Defective workplace dynamics. Feeling undermined, micromanaged, isolated from others, or over-burdened by colleagues can heighten the effects of workplace stress.

3. Employee wellbeing programs

There are some great online resources, like this free checklist of 10 strategies to manage stress when working from home [next page]. I use these within our long-term program of mental health support, which is supported by external mental health experts.

Claire Aristides from Mindology and Neil Gregory from Mental Health Matters lead our wellbeing workshops. Our aim is to equip individuals with the insight and skills to improve their emotional resilience, which includes strategies for managing work-related stress.

I am thrilled that my colleagues are engaging with wellbeing initiatives like this, practicing them, and recognizing their value. It is testament to the company that 98% of employees say that PRMA Consulting truly cares for its staff.

Stay in touch

I would love to hear how your organization supports you with stress management and wellbeing. Please get in touch at info@prmaconsulting.com or subscribe to our updates and be part of the evolving conversation.

 

Further reading:

  1. The American Institute of Stress. 
  2. Kinetic Business Solutions. 
  3. Mohd. Razali Salleh. 

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