Workplace stress is a constant battle in the modern working environment, and in 2013/14 it was estimated that 39% of work related illness cases in the UK were a result of stress, depression or anxiety.
According to EEF's Sickness Absence Survey, surveyed companies with more than 500 employees "ranked stress and other mental ill health disorders as the most common cause of long term sickness absence." That survey also found that "stress and other mental ill health disorders are ranked as the third most common cause of long‑term sickness absence by almost a quarter (23%) of surveyed companies."
These figures form part of the estimated 40 million cases of stress recorded in the EU, according to a recent report on workplace stress by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The ILO, which is marking World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April by highlighting the global workplace stress problem, said in its latest report that “high stress levels can contribute to developing health-related impairments, including mental and behavioural disorders such as exhaustion, burnout, anxiety and depression, as well as other physical impairments such as cardio-vascular disease and musculoskeletal disorders.”
The report also stated: “Growing attention is also being paid to the impact of emerging coping behaviours such as alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, unhealthy diet, poor sleep, as well as to their relation with an increasing rate of workplace accidents and non-communicable diseases.”
Dealing with workplace stress is an essential management skill that should be developed for effective management and leadership, and spotting early warnings signs of stress can help prevent the longer term negative impact on the workplace.
There are a number of indicators that team leaders and managers should be aware of, and there are also simple practices to encourage to help prevent workplace stress becoming an issue.
Some stress indicators include:
- Coming in early and/or working late
- Feeling the need to work on weekends
- Not taking time off, including lunch breaks
- Saturday morning headaches and Sunday night insomnia
- Irritable or over-reacting to situations
Recent scientific studies have shown that mindfulness practices such as meditation help individuals cope better with day-to-day stresses, and a growing number of leading international companies like Google and Apple are actively encouraging mindfulness as part of the work environment.
Simple mindfulness practices can be readily adopted by managers to help their teams thrive. This includes encouraging ‘digital free’ brainstorming activities, facilitating ‘transition times’ between work activities, and encouraging mediation techniques to help deal with stress.
EEF has a range of training options available to help managers lead their teams better. Our essential management skills training provides managers with the skills they need to effectively manage their teams. Managers should also consider stress management training to help identify causes and symptoms of workplace stress.