From unrealistic deadlines to unmanageable workloads, stress in the workplace is a modern epidemic that accounts for 37 percent of all ill-health cases at work. The impact on businesses is clear, with an average of 11.7 million days a year lost due to stress, according to the latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS).
The impact workplace stress has on your business
Many business owners are unaware of the cost that stress has on their net earnings. Employers often adhere to the notion that making workforce well-being a priority is incompatible with a healthy bottom line. In most cases, the exact opposite is true, as health insurance company Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini discovered. As a result of making yoga, acupuncture and meditation available to his 34,000 employees, Bertolini saw a 7 percent drop in health care lcosts in 2012 and an additional 69 minutes of productivity per day for those partaking in the wellness scheme.
Business owners should be aware that the vitality of their company is directly linked to the vitality of their employees. A stressed workforce could also have consequences beyond productivity – you may be breaking the law.
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999), employers must take a risk assessment for health hazards at the workplace (like stress) and are obliged to take action to control that risk.
What can employers do to help stress in the workplace?
Set up a Wellness Scheme
The British Heart Foundation encourage staff to spend 10 minutes a day improving their lifestyle. To do this, business owners could offer a wellness scheme, such as making healthy snacks in the office readily available, providing discounts on gym memberships, or having massage treatments onsite (a benefit available at many NHS Trusts). This is a good way to help employees unwind and better manage their stress.
Consider Activity Based Working
Google, Microsoft and Lego all have activity based working at the heart of their companies. Activity based working basically turns the notion of having your own desk space on its head. Workers can move around the building, using different rooms for different purposes. This decreases the sedentary nature of office work, which has been proven to increase levels of anxiety and stress in individuals.
Allowing your employee to take control of their working hours sounds like a nightmare. However, having a flexible work schedule often makes an employee more productive. This independence also decreases stress levels, as it allows workers to fit work in around life’s demands. Another possibility is remote working. Allowing employees to work from home fosters a better work-life balance, as they will no longer have to face a long commute and can fit their working hours around their lifestyle, particularly beneficial for new mothers.
Business Owners should praise employees for their contribution to a company’s success. In doing so, employees feel valued and that their hard work is not in vain. It also makes them want to repeat their successes in the future. There are many ways you can recognise employee success. business owners can publicise achievements in a company newsletter, treat a hard-working team to lunch, or even just remark on an employee’s good ideas during a team meeting.
Bringing your team together in an environment that isn’t a team meeting can help employees bond, boost morale and ultimately decrease stress in the workplace. Business owners can set aside an hour a week to play games, allow a long team lunch, or even bring in a motivational speaker. Social activity at work can have the additional bonus of getting your teams to work together more effectively. This creates a happier, healthier and more stress-free work environment.
The benefits of having stress-free employees
ACAS (employer and employee advisers on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law) have identified the following benefits of a stress-free workforce:
- Employees feel happier at work and perform better.
- Introducing a new pay system or new patterns of work are easier when ‘stress’ is managed effectively.
- Problems can be resolved at work rather than at an employment tribunal.
- Attendance levels go up and sickness absence goes down when stress in the workplace is reduced.