How to manage stress and wellbeing at work
As well as men’s health month, November is also home to national stress awareness week. Stress is something that affects us all and can be prevalent amongst employees at work.
Keeping up the conversation surrounding health and wellbeing is important, particularly in the winter months. Many people report feeling lethargic or suffering with seasonal effectiveness disorder. On top of that, many of us will end up catching a cold or a nasty flu bug in the winter months if we don't protect ourselves which can add to the feeling of stress when you have to take time off work, are running behind on tasks and still have a family or day-to-day life to get on with. A lot of these winter issues will affect employees across the country resulting in time off work and decreased productivity and mostly, increased stress.
According to Tatler magazine, the transition between seasons can leave 1 in 20 of us with the 'winter blues', 10 percent of whom may develop clinical depression. At the same time, England's health chiefs say they will need to create an extra 7,000 beds to tackle 'substantial' pressures for winter 2022 - BBC News. It can be hard to foster a productive and positive environment if your team is struggling with mental health or increased stress.
So, this poses the question, do our health and wellbeing standards do enough in the workplace? And are employers doing enough to keep their employees healthy and safe during the winter season? With many reporting mental health issues in the winter and the added stress of the cost-of-living crisis causing choices to be made between eating and heating. This is something employees could be struggling in the midst trying to operate a somewhat normal work life.
What are the main causes of stress at work and what are the implications?
Some of the main causes of stress are often external and can be caused by excess pressure at work, familial problems and issues, financial worries such as debt and soaring inflation or health problems. Excess stress can also have an effect on physical health according to the NHS, stress can cause headaches and dizziness, muscle tension and pain, stomach problems, chest pain and decreased libido. However, stress can also affect the immune system. Although this can be a good thing in immediate situations, activating your fight or flight mode, chronic stress can be damaging. *Stress hormones can weaken your immune system and reduce your body’s response to foreign invaders.
The ONS, reports that there were an estimated 23,200 deaths in the winter of 2019 with respiratory diseases being the leading cause. ONS concluded that like many countries, in England and Wales more people die in the winter than in summertime. Many illnesses such as cold and flu can make individuals more susceptible if they are suffering with chronic stress.
Being under stress or pressure for too long a time can also open the door for more serious mental health problems such as anxiety and clinical depression. So, it's imperative that we make the health and wellbeing of our workforce a top priority in the winter months and understand how to stay healthy in the winter.
How to help with stress in the workplace
There are many steps you can take to help your team deal and cope with stress. We’ve put together a few ways in which you can support your employees on dealing with stress so they can become healthier and happier.
- Offer your employees a safe space to talk about their stressors. A problem shared is a problem halved and if employees feel that they are in an environment where they can talk about their stressors, they will feel more supported. Offering resources to employees who are struggling can also help.
- Private GP appointments or corporate healthcare can also be another way in which you can support your team. The Doctors Clinic Group has a team of GP’s who are all mental health trained as well as being able to make fast referrals for those who may need more care. Prevention is better than the cure, if you have any concerns over your team's health the best thing to do is book in with a GP as soon as possible. But before you get to that point you want to be doing everything you can to prevent illness in the first place.
- Encourage healthy eating and physical activity amongst your employees – often making changes in lifestyle can take the edge off of chronic stress and even help to reduce it. This can also help boost your team's immunity in the winter months.
- Host team socials so that your team feel they have a community around them. Often stress is worsened when we feel that we’re all alone, having a support bubble can make all the difference.
- Encourage your team to take regular breaks if needed, and to utilise their annual leave. Having some me time can be a good way to wind down.
- Get your team to work smarter and not harder. Often long working hours and arduous or tedious processes can cause burnout over a long period of time. Look at streamlining these workflows to take the pressure off.
- Encourage flexitime or more flexible ways of working. If your team is office based, look at how hybrid working could help.
- Get your team vaccinated. It’s never too late to get vaccinated against the flu. This will also boost your team's immunity against nasty winter bugs if they’re struggling stress. Flu accounts for many deaths during the winter months as it affects the respiratory system.
The Doctors Clinic Group offers a full range of services to help you stay fit and healthy and put your health first. Get in touch today with a member of our team to keep your employees healthy this winter.