April is Stress Awareness Month and this year’s theme is Community. It seems entirely apt that coming out of a pandemic which isolated us from the various communities that support us, that this is the theme for 2022.
The Importance of Community
It’s well known that human connection is fundamental to our happiness and fulfilment. The various communities we are all a part of help to provide that.
The Stress Management Society who are behind the awareness day say they chose the community theme because a lack of support can cause loneliness and isolation, which in turn lowers people’s wellbeing, impacts mental health and can lead to mental illness.
UK workers put in the longest working week in Europe, spending on average 42.3 hours a week at work. With this in mind, what role can employers play in optimising our workplace communities, bearing in mind the changes we are seeing to the way we work as a result of COVID?
Five Ways Employers Can Help Mitigate Employee Stress
- Think about what changes your workplace has seen as a result of the pandemic. For some it might be minimal, for others there may have been a massive shift from the ‘norm’ with staff working in a different ways. If things do look different, can any gaps be identified in terms of the ways employees might have previously communicated with and supported each other?
- Review your absence data. Look at any recent trends. Have you seen an increase in stress or mental health absence? Can you identify any themes? Do these give you any insights from a team or wider workplace perspective?
- What are your staff telling you? If you do a staff survey, consider whether the questions capture the topics of support, both from a manager and colleague perspective. If you don’t, consider using staff forums or other frameworks to see what these tell you.
- Encourage staff to reach out if they are feeling unhealthy levels of stress or anxiety. Give the message that the workplace is a supportive community that wants its staff to thrive. Issue communications to this effect via email, noticeboards, team briefings or other means.
- Keep talking. Checking in with people, chatting about non work related topics – it’s some of these more informal catch ups that have been lost in some workplaces as a result of less face to face contact. It’s sometimes in these moments that people feel more able to open up about things or discover a shared connection that makes them feel less alone.