How to Manage Stress and Mental Health At Work
Stop and think about what you say before you say it!
Annalie King, Employment Solicitor considers the impact of how we communicate with each other affects our stress and mental health.
The Health and Safety Executive defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them.”
So, if that is stress then what is mental health?
The ACAS guide on promoting positive mental health at work defines mental health as “our emotional, physiological and social well-being, it affects how we think, feel and act and how we cope with the normal pressures of every-day life”.
The ACAS guidance goes on to further explain mental health as not being static but rather on a sliding scale.
For example, an employee at work who is normally positive, reliable and outgoing may have a stressful situation at home, be that death in the family or a relationship breakdown that can have an adverse impact on their mental health at work. In the alternative, an employee who has a disability such as, anxiety, may cope very well at work as they developed strategies that for the most part allow them to experience positive mental health.
Different Types of Stress
In my experience, most employees attend work on a daily basis to try and do the best that they can do; sometimes under very difficult circumstances.
Whether that be external pressures such as effect that COVID-19 has had the entire world in the last 18 months, where redundancies are being made or where the workload has increased but staffing levels haven’t. As a result of COVID-19 I have clients talking to me about their Employees experiencing levels of anxiety (whether that be being out of the office or the return to the office from the 19th July) and isolation in varying degrees.
As a practising Solicitor I have seen a rise in complaints made to me by employees with regard to their employers lack of communication and perceived support. With many people being outside of the office and email communication being quite often the primary way that employers communicate with their employees, it is imperative that their communication style and what they say in an email is considered as it can have an impact on an individual.
Different Types of Pressure
It is normal and accepted for employees to have pressures put upon them but undue pressures and increased work load are often the biggest cause of absenteeism and usually long term absenteeism as the employee feels burned out.
It is all well and good to have policies in place to address mental health in the workplace but if employers do not implement them and ensure that their line managers are trained on how to be a positive and encouraging leader then these policies are going to be ineffective in my experience.
According to the World Health Organisation, a healthy working environment is one in which there is not only an absence of harmful conditions but an abundance of health promoting ones. For example, ensuring that there are appropriate risk assessments to health as well as appropriate training, which I have already mentioned, on health issues in the workplace.
Communication is Essential
As I said there is a difference between pressure and stress in the workplace.
It is normal for employees to be under certain pressures whilst at work but burn out in my experience happens when an employee has chronic workplace stress that the employer has failed to manage successfully. This failure can and often results in the employees having an increased mental distancing or being negative about their jobs; quite often feeling unmotivated or exhausted together with a reduced level of professionalism.
I accept that it is not always easy for an employer to identify any employee who is under stress. The employer may not be aware of an employee’s personal situation.
Communication with your employees is vital to ensuring the success of any policies that have been put in place by employers to promote a positive working culture. Fundamentally, in my opinion, whatever your position within a company is, stop and think about what you say before you say it.
If you are sending an email re-read that email and consider the tone that it was sent with, the possible impact it could have on someone’s day. As I said in the beginning most people are trying their best and by the creation of a positive working culture, good communication skills, your company’s productivity will increase.
How Kerseys Can Help
If you are looking for support for your business, please do not hesitate to contact Annalie King who specialises in providing businesses with HR support, contact Annalie at [email protected] or telephone Ipswich 01473 213311 or Colchester 01206 584584 where Annalie will be happy to speak with you.
We recognise that not one size fits all and we will be happy to discuss your specific requirements with you to advise you on a retainer basis in order to help you reduce your costs and feel assured that you have access to a qualified employment lawyer or whether you require advice or contracts or policies on a one off fee basis.Employment Law Services