Why it’s important to speak out about workplace stress
Experiencing stress in the workplace is very common, but in some cases, this can lead to more serious mental health issues down the line, or even exacerbate existing ones. It’s therefore crucially important to speak out about stress at an early stage.
Statistics show that mental health issues can affect anyone. While the Mental Health Foundation states that women are more likely to have a common mental health problem than men, men are more likely to commit suicide. Of the 6,233 suicides recorded in the UK in 2013, 78 per cent of those who took their own life were male.
Is it thought that this dramatic gulf in male and female suicide rates is down to perceptions of ‘masculinity’; to men simply being less reluctant to confide in loved ones and seek help for fear of looking ‘weak’. However, there are many reasons why more men and women should speak up about their state of mind, both in and outside the workplace.
Talking can help you feel better
Sometimes it’s the simple things that have the biggest impact. Men may be less likely to talk about how they’re feeling, but confiding in someone can be a huge weight off your shoulders.
Whether your confidant is a friend, family member or colleague, verbalising your thoughts could make you feel much less alone. If you find it easier to talk to someone outside of your family or friendship circle, there are other options: your manager, HR department, union representative or other confidential advisor may be able to help you talk through the issues you are experiencing.
It may help you to help someone else
With many men and women suffering in silence, you never know whether the person you choose to confide in could need a friendly ear themselves. If they’re struggling, too, your bravery could inspire their own, and they may be more likely to speak out themselves. Look out for the signs that someone is stressed; this could include symptoms such as appearing distracted, finding it difficult to concentrate or follow instructions, and struggling to complete actions. Plus, it’s often the case that two heads are better than one – you could find yourselves discovering coping mechanisms you may never have thought of on your own.
It can pave the way for change
Once one person stands up for such a crucial issue, others can often follow, both in the workplace and out of it. If you and others speak to your manager or HR department about your experience of stress, for example, you could spark a dialogue that paves the way for change.
Increasingly, workplaces recognise the importance of managing staff stress which has resulted in a growing focus on introducing health and wellbeing initiatives. These initiatives do not necessarily need to cost a lot, and can include things such as flexible hours, discounted gym memberships and on-site mindfulness classes. It is also important for employers to be aware of the common triggers of stress in the workplace. For example, the threat of redundancy or worries about a reduction in hours can lead to increased levels of stress. In cases such as these, one of the key things employers can do is to provide honest and open communication to staff.
Talking can help eliminate related disorders
It’s no secret that prolonged periods of stress can lead to further mental health issues, including depression and anxiety disorders, as well as physical side effects such as high blood pressure and headaches. By talking to somebody about workplace stress, you may find you feel much more confident about taking the next step - speaking to your GP or working on self-care. The sooner you seek help and work on lowering your stress levels, the more likely you are to avoid developing related health issues.
What advice would you give to somebody who was struggling to speak up about workplace stress? Perhaps you have some advice on coping with stress, too? We’d love to hear more on our Linkedin and Twitter pages.
This article was first published on 1st June 2016.
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