While stress has always been part and parcel of the workplace, after the disruption of the past few years, it is something that is being seen more and more. While this clearly isn’t acceptable – the statistics are there, and make pretty sobering reading:

• Mental ill health costs UK employers approximately £56 billion each year – an annual increase of 24% per year since 2019.
• Almost half of workers (46%) say they’ve worked in recent months despite not feeling physically or mentally well enough to perform their duties. (CIPD Good Work Index 2022).
• 55% of respondents, in the CIPD good work index survey, who have experienced depression in the past 12 months said work had contributed, however, only 36% discussed this with their boss or employer.
• Just over a quarter of workers (26%) say they struggle to relax in their personal time because of work.
• 50% of employees have experienced at least one characteristic of burn out due to greater job demands and expectations, lack of social interaction and lack of boundaries between work and home life. (Deloitte UK Mental Health Report 2022).

Yet in these challenging times, what can employers do to protect both their staff and themselves from stress?

At People Matters HR, a leading North West HR Consultancy, promoting positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace has always been right at the top of our agenda – and we know that this can have a direct impact on stress levels within a business. Here are three practical ways that businesses can help their employees with stress management.

Signpost, signpost and signpost

The fact that only 36% of employees are comfortable discussing their stress levels with their employer is concerning. While many employers will often say that “my door is always open”, what does this mean in real terms?

It’s important that staff know their go-to person when the going gets tough – be that HR, a Mental Health First Aider or a wellbeing officer. Details should regularly be shared company wide amongst your team so staff have a clear point of contact.

For smaller organisations, that person may be the business owner themselves – and the role is no less important.

Be vigilant to how your team are doing, and if you spot that someone may need a little extra support, arrange the time to take the person for a coffee and let them just talk, while you listen. And we mean really listen.

Don’t interrupt. Don’t agree or disagree. Don’t second guess what they are about to say and absolutely don’t relate it to your own experiences.

Introduce Employee Benefit Schemes

While times are challenging, there are not many organisations who are able to reward their staff with big pay increases and bonus schemes. There are, however, other options which will help staff feel valued and in the long term, may actually be more useful to them.

Employee benefits schemes offer a fantastic way to attract, reward and retain staff – a cost effective way that you, as an employer, can offer incentives which are worth a lot to your employees and their families. These employee benefits might include Business Protection Insurance, Private Medical Insurance, Group Life Assurance, Health Cash plans to cover dental, optical, physio, mental health support, Virtual GP Service, gym memberships and even retail discounts.

People Matters HR have recently teamed up with Nugent Sante to offer a rewards package to both our own staff and to our clients – which is already proving extremely popular.

Appoint Mental Health first aiders

Mental Health First Aiders in businesses are trained to provide early intervention help for employees who may be struggling with mental health issues. Mental Health First Aiders are not trained to be therapists or psychiatrists but they can offer initial support through non-judgemental listening and guidance.

A range of subjects are usually covered during the training including:

• What is First Aid for Mental Health?
• Identifying mental health conditions.
• Providing advice and starting a conversation.
• Drugs and alcohol.
• First Aid for Mental Health action plan.
• First Aid for Mental Health in the workplace.

People Matters HR run a series of Mental Health First Aider workshops – please get in touch for more details.