Samuel Leach, Director of Samuel & Co. Trading, explains how employers can help employees (and themselves) tackle stress at work. 

Stress at work can leave employees visibly checked out, disengaged and unable to complete simple daily tasks. Recent research has revealed that stress related absences from work cost the UK economy an average of £6.5bn per year, not only highlighting the impact stress has on a company’s finances, but also shining a light on the worrying frequency of this work-related issue.

Employers must therefore act sooner rather than later in order to stimulate change and improve the overall wellbeing of their staff. Here is my top advice for bosses on how to tackle these issues and create a positive working environment for all.

Set a precedent

The key to becoming a successful employer is being able to juggle your employees’ issues without letting your own problems get in the way. If you feel anxious or run down, you must try and not let it affect your performance at work, as it could then easily impact your workforce and company more widely.

If you are able to compartmentalise and deal with stress in a logical manner, then your employees will undoubtedly follow your example and deal better with their issues at work as a result.

Give your workforce the power

All your employees will have their own preferences and quirks when it comes to taking on new tasks and challenges and it’s essential to strike a balance between offering advice, without taking away their autonomy. Overtly inserting your opinion and views on how tasks should be carried out can leave those below you feeling patronised and unmotivated.

Conversely, giving them enough responsibility, will inspire workers to take ownership and pride over their projects. Take time to encourage regular review and evaluation catch ups that will foster open dialogue and offer opportunities for necessary changes and adjustments. This will decrease the likelihood of stress and anxiety related issues further down the line.

Relax, take it easy!

Time and time again people fall into the modern-day trap of working nonstop, spending extra hours in the office and pushing themselves to their professional limits. If these workplace habits ring true for yourself and your employees, then it’s time to make some companywide changes, for the sake of you and your colleagues alike.

A good work-life balance is one of the main factors contributing to overall staff satisfaction, so it’s important that you encourage your workforce to take regular breaks. Introducing regular social events outside of the office environment and perhaps adding the odd spontaneous treat in the office will increase productivity, as well as the overall willingness to return to work.

Make the office a place people want to be

Offices are notoriously bland and unwelcoming environments, so altering this could have a huge impact on satisfaction levels in the office. Certain office features undoubtedly affect the overall productivity and wellbeing of your workers, so you could request their input before making changes, in order to deduce what will suit the majority.

Biophilic design (plants) for example is proven to decrease stress for many employees, by creating a calm, aesthetically pleasing environment and increased oxygen levels. Perhaps you could introduce more breakout zones or create workstations that soak up more natural light. If your workforce enjoys being in the office, you will notice an increase in efficiency and overall happiness as a result.

Maintain constant communication

Regularly talking to your employees on a one to one basis, as well as in group situations, will open a more communicative and relaxed environment for them to air any grievances they may have. They will respect and trust you when they see you go the extra mile to improve their overall wellbeing.

Being a manager doesn’t mean that you have the answers to every workplace issue, but it does give you the power to help and lessen your employees load. Remember everyone is human and implementing an open-door policy will spread a much-needed relaxed feel throughout the office, especially during particularly stressful times.

Worries and stress in the workplace are unavoidable from time to time. The key is to foster an environment whereby you minimise the frequency of stresses, as well as positioning yourself as someone who is approachable and flexible.

Making some minor changes to your office layout and infrastructure can be the difference between a happy workplace, and one that is unproductive and lack lustre.

About the author

Samuel Leach, Director of Samuel & Co. Trading, is a frequent commentator on HR and leadership issues.  He is also the Author of The Formula for Success: How to Win at Life Using Your Own Personal Algorithm