Mark, together with a clinical psychotherapist, was recently working with a client delivering some stress awareness workshops for managers. They discovered some starting facts about workplace stress as well as learning about some great free resources available from the Health and Safety Executive.
In putting together a workshop for managers about stress in the workplace, I stumbled upon some startling statistics. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in 2017-2018 15.4 million working days were lost due to stress, anxiety and depression. That equates to 57% of all working days lost due to ill health. People took an average of 25.8 days off work for stress, depression or anxiety. Wow! That’s a huge number of working days lost!
The HSE also provides a great definition of what stress is, as it’s often misunderstood or seen as a mental health problem. So let’s get the facts straight first… ‘Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them. There is a clear distinction between pressure, which can create a ‘buzz’ and be motivating, and stress, which occurs when this pressure becomes excessive’ (HSE 2017). To put it another way, it’s ‘the degree to which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of pressures that are unmanageable’ (Mental Health Foundation).
I also had a myth-busting revelation in putting this workshop together – stress isn’t a mental health problem. It isn’t a psychiatric diagnosis, but it’s closely linked to mental health in two important ways:
- stress can cause mental health problems, and make existing problems worse. For example, if you often struggle to manage feelings of stress, you might develop a mental health problem like anxiety or depression
- mental health problems can cause stress. You might find coping with the day-to-day symptoms of your mental health problem, as well as potentially needing to manage medication, heath care appointments or treatments, can become extra sources of stress
For managers of people, the message from the HSE is clear – you have a responsibility to ensure your employees go home healthy. To help, they’ve developed a brilliant free resource, The Talking Toolkit: preventing workplace stress and I’d encourage everyone to download it. It’s a straightforward support tool for any manager of people with templates designed to get you and employees talking about issues which may be causing work-related stress or issues which could have the potential to become future causes of stress if not managed properly. It also helps identify and manage the causes of stress at work, providing advice on how to build the business case for taking action, and how to involve the senior team and all employees to work together to tackle the problems. There’s also great signposting to other resources, advice and help.
Stress in the workplace is something we all need to talk about openly if we’re to go home healthy every day. I know it’s something I’m going to put on the agenda for my next one-to-one with my boss.