Since 1992, every April has been ‘Stress Awareness Month’, aiming to increase public awareness about the causes, early warning signs and cures in the modern stress epidemic. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.  As discussed in our earlier blog, there are many things that can add to the stress an individual experiences, and the rising costs of living are now playing a major role in that.
Combatting stress and knowing how to deal with it is very important, to help people to not let it get the better of them and to minimise the impact that it has on their overall health & wellbeing – both mentally and physically. The most crucial thing that any of us can do when we are feeling stressed or anxious is to look after ourselves, make time to relax and learn to say no to things that are simply too overwhelming right now; but it can be difficult not to feel guilty or worry about any implications.
However, important it is to know how to handle stress though, it is so much more vital to understand the early warning signs and recognise when stress is starting to rear its ugly head – prevention is always better than cure.
Most of us are not very good at talking about our worries without fear of stigma or judgement, making it crucial for everyone – friends, family, employers and colleagues – to help combat this stigma and allow people to share their experiences, worries and importantly their coping mechanisms, in an open and honest way. Mental wellbeing is finally becoming less of a taboo topic of conversation, which can only be a good, progressive step in our society as well as our working lives.
It is essential to remember that prevention is possible. It is not just about preventing stress before it arises – but also preventing the causes of stress such as people being subject to bias and inequality. We can also prevent stress from increasing for those who are already experiencing it. Whilst it may be easier to identify signs of stress with friends and family, it is important to look out for your colleagues to show they have support from their employer. It can also help prevent burnout for an employee who might have a lot on their mind.
But what are the signs of stress at work?
Some signs of stress may seem obvious – undue sensitivity, crying, overreaction and an argumentative nature are just a few of these. But there are other signs to look out for in the workplace, too, including:
- An inconsistent or declining performance
- Consistently being late or leaving early
- Reduced social contact
- Lack of holiday usage
- A lack of commitment or motivation
- Tension headaches
- Rapid weight loss or gain
Plus, many others…
The silver lining in this is that there are many options an employer can take and put in place to help with the prevention of stress within the workplace, and to deal with it when instances do occur. Based on the Thriving at Work review , “The human cost is huge, with poor mental health having an impact on the lives of many individuals and those around them.” Around 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition. 
The review includes standards to help achieve a better outcome for employees, including:
- The provision of mental health tools and support, such as an Employee Assistance Programme, and mental health first aiders
- Promoting an open culture around stress and mental health
- Increasing transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting.
In order to help combat stress in the workplace, it is imperative for employers to ensure they are offering help for those who need it, and have created an open working culture that allows those who may feel stressed to reach out to someone and seek help. On top of this, communication is key – if an employee doesn’t know that the help is there, are they even likely to use it?
At Broadstone, we specialise in health & wellbeing within the workplace and work with many businesses to help them develop a set of employee benefits that are most appropriate for their workforce. We can help you communicate these better and increase employee engagement to ensure the best use of your benefits platform, or to help implement a platform if you don’t already have one, to make your benefits cost-effective and provide a better return on investment for all.
If this is something that you are considering, or even if you are not sure where to start – reach out to us today to find out more.