April is National Stress Awareness Month, but perhaps this year it is more poignant than ever before. Growing stress in the workplace, heightened by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, now promises to damage employee wellbeing and lower productivity. But is there anything that HR can do to ease the stress now being felt?
Thankfully, Human Resources Departments are best placed to help in the fight against what some have described as a potential second health crisis. Suspicions that the global pandemic would have a lasting, as well as telling, impact on the workplace have been borne out by research.
According to Britain’s Stress Management Society, a recent stress study revealed that 65% of people in the UK have felt a greater degree of stress since the Covid-19 restrictions began in March 2020.
The survey also ascertained that the key causes of the stress are:
- feelings of disconnection
- loss of control
Whether the stress-related symptoms manifest themselves in emotional, mental or behavioural ways, there are some key signs that employers should look out for? Here are 5 telling signs.
5 Signs Of Stress Amongst Your Employees
- A Mood Change
- Poor Collaboration
- Falling Quality Of Work
- General Absenteeism
The most obvious sign of stress is a sea-change in mood. Formerly upbeat and friendly employees can turn into irritable and sometimes more hostile individuals, making the workplace a difficult place to be for everyone. Mood changes can also lead to other issues, like insomnia and aggression.
Collaboration is a vital part of any company, with colleagues needing to work closely together to reach set targets. Stress can cause colleagues to argue, curtailing the possibility of any progress being made.
Concentration levels can fall drastically with employees who are under stress. They are usually more easily distracted, and less likely to commit fully to tasks. What is more, a great number of errors are likely too, ensuring that the work done is sloppy and inaccurate.
Working from home may make absenteeism less clear-cut, but employees seeking more sick time than usual is a strong indication that they may be suffering from stress. Research has shown that stress is responsible for as much as 44% of absenteeism in cases in Ireland.
While absenteeism might involve otherwise healthy employees taking time off, stress can also cause genuine illnesses. It can wreak havoc on the immune system, leaving stressed employees susceptible to headaches, migraines, and other chronic pains, as well as the general bugs and viruses that might be going around.
What Can HR Do?
So what are the steps that HR Departments can take to deal with employee stress cases?
- Consult With Employees
- Encourage Fresh-Air Breaks
- Offer De-Stressing Activities
- Promote Flexible Work Schedules
Find out how work practices can ease the stress. Things like deadlines, workload, and overtime can be contributing factors. Have managers set realistic targets.
Employees that take breaks regularly through the day typically have less stress. However, those that take outdoor breaks, in the fresh air, are better off again. So, encourage your employees to take walks outside to unwind, recharge, and de-stress.
Introduce some activities in work that will help employees to channel their stress. Perhaps get a yoga instructor to come in once a week, or maybe arrange some message sessions or meditation groups. Perhaps even have Pet Days, when employees bring their pets to work.
Work-from-home working arrangements are already so common now, but you could offer an assurance that these arrangements will be available in the long-term, if they prefer them. Also, offer more flexible hours, allowing employees to relax more during the week, and achieve a more balance work-life balance.
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