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Three colleagues sitting in a meeting. They're smiling and looking positive - they support each other to tackle stress.

How well do you manage employee workplace stress?

Stress can be known to improve productivity and employee focus, and therefore, isn’t always a bad thing. However, when stress starts to negatively impact your staff’s performance, health and wellbeing or their home life, you should quickly identify the cause, and the steps needed to reduce stress in the workplace for your staff.

Over 17 million working days are still being lost due to stress, depression or anxiety at work. As an employer, it’s important to take responsibility for ensuring your staff are happy and healthy.

What is workplace stress?

Workplace stress is defined as the harmful reaction that people have to undue pressure and demands placed on them at work. Our report, Mental Health in the Workplace, revealed that 64% of employees feel work has been a cause for their mental health deterioration – an increase from 2020.

Workload, finances and office culture continue to top the list for reasons of poor mental health, all of which correlate to the perception of employees that work has become even more stressful in the last two years. That’s why identifying the main causes of stress in your workplace is important to be able to offer the right support.

What are the causes of stress at work?

With 37% of respondents having taken time off for their mental wellbeing over the last two years, it’s important for employers to take proactive steps to minimise or eliminate the risk altogether. Our research found that the most common cause of stress included:

1. Increased workload 

In our mental health report, we found that increased workloads were the biggest cause of stress, with 58% of employees citing this as the main cause of mental health issues in the workplace. Increased workload is associated with reduced levels of productivity, higher levels of fatigue and a higher risk of employee burnout.

That’s why a good work-life balance is a top priority for many employees, with a third of them considering it crucial when looking for a job. Two-thirds are willing to take a pay cut for a better work-life balance, and 41% of employees seek flexibility to be able to maintain it.

2. Financial concerns 

For the first time ever, businesses can be employing up to five generations of staff. However, regardless of what generation, money is important to everyone. With financial worries looming over the country, the worry of money can be a big part of day-to-day life. For younger generations, there is a constant struggle to overcome student debt, that’s higher than ever before, while trying to save for life milestones like buying a first home.

Older generations tend to have a higher number of debts including mortgages, car payments and credit cards, but can also face family financial burdens such as care costs for elderly parents or supporting dependents still at school or university.

Financial concerns can dominate an employee's mind, with 80% of UK employees believing that stress around their financial wellbeing can negatively impact their performance at work leading to a lack of concentration, poor productivity and also affect their short and long term health and wellbeing.

3. Hitting deadlines 

When an employee faces multiple tight deadlines, they can experience an extreme level of stress, which sometimes can be completely out of their control. Many roles may have deliverables that require internal approvals, and have tight deadlines, and in a culture of “my work is the most important” it can be very easy for employees to become overwhelmed and unnecessarily stressed by constant chasers and follow ups from colleagues.

Employees can also feel like they have an obligation to work late or over weekends in order to complete all of their work, putting a strain on relationships at home and adding to the problem.

4. Workplace bullying 

Nearly two thirds of employees would consider leaving their job because their employers don’t share their values. The study also revealed that 61% of respondents cited values as the most important factor when accepting a job. Employees are looking for a workplace that they feel included and heard in, that doesn’t have a toxic working culture, and helps them maintain a healthy work-life balance.

There’s also been a significant increase in the number of people reporting workplace bullying as a reason for deteriorating mental health, rising by 8% from 2020. Also known as a "silent epidemic", many organisations do not have a clear approach for addressing and tackling the problem.

How to help manage employee stress at work

As an employer, it is important that you have a strategy in place to reduce your employees stress at work. Here are four things you can do to help reduce stress in your workplace:

1. Offer support 

Due to the complex and sensitive nature of some of the side effects of employee stress, it’s not uncommon that you might feel ill equipped to offer the level of support you feel your team requires. There are specialist organisations who employers can turn to, who will be able to offer the support and advice that your staff need. When looking for a provider of this service, you might want to consider whether they offer 24/7 telephone support. Employees might feel more comfortable raising an issue anonymously than raising it through their manager.

2. Encourage flexible working

Working 9-5 days are no longer suitable or popular for many, especially for those with dependents. Flexible working can grant your staff the ability to manage their own time and offer them a greater sense of control over their working day, likely leading to higher levels of productivity.

3. Respect your employees' personal time 

As an employer it’s important to recognise your employees need time away from work. This might be ensuring that they always take time away from their desk for their lunch, encouraging 10-15 minute walks throughout the day, or promoting leaving on time. There might be times where this isn’t always feasible, however it’s important that you promote a culture of flexibility and a balanced working day as the norm.

4. Start an exercise class at lunchtime

As well as being great for your physical health, exercise has also been shown to reduce stress at work due to reduced fatigue, increased alertness and concentration and a higher level of cognitive function.

Some businesses have found success through staff run exercise classes, including group runs, circuit training and yoga and Pilates. Not only is this great for team building across departments, it also helps your staff stay fit and healthy.


Our business healthcare

Benenden Healthcare for Business provides an affordable, high quality, private healthcare solution to support all your employees. With easy setup and no exclusions on pre-existing medical conditions, we want to help make healthcare a standard of employment for everyone, rather than just a perk for the few. See how we can help you develop a healthcare solution that works for your whole business.