Something we all need to mind

18 May

Mental health charity MIND recently released new research findings which revealed that work is currently more stressful than money worries, marriage and relationships and health issues. The survey of 2000 workers showed that 41% are stressed or very stressed.

The issue of stress and its effect on workers is not going to go away. The only trouble is that, according to the research, we’re not talking enough about it, and thus not dealing with it. So it will remain doing its damage to those silent sufferers.

This isn’t really surprising when you read that 1 in 4 respondents said they would be deemed less capable if they admitted to feeling stressed; and 22% of those who had disclosed a mental health issue to their boss had been sacked or forced out of their jobs. How would those outcomes relieve the stress being suffered?

“I’m feeling a bit stressed right now.”

“OK, we can do without you.”

It wouldn’t.

This is a terrible situation; obviously for the employee, but also for the employer in terms of losing a worker and the time and money involved in replacing them.

It’s normal to experience a little stress in our lives, and it often comes from those people and activities we love to do. Travelling is my favourite pastime and yet if you’ve ever had to conform to Easyjet’s baggage rules, you’ll know that there’s that moment of trying to force your suitcase into that space which can be quite stressful (Its fits! Honestly!). Stress can also energise us and mobilise our bodies so that we can cope better in difficult situations. Anyone who has to work to a strict deadline has probably experienced the surge of adrenalin as it creeps ever closer.

But if employers don’t start to manage workplace stress positively – ignoring the stigma and discrimination – they will lose out. Keeping a workforce healthy and safe not only has moral implications, but it also reduces absence costs and productivity losses. More importantly in my eyes, they won’t simply be one of those employers who washes their hands of workers who aren’t afraid to admit they need some professional support and guidance.

Workers don’t come on a conveyor belt and they should not be expected to act as if they do. Sometimes inexpensive measures can make all the difference: positive responses from line managers; or having workers aware of the symptoms so they can identify and understand the issues their colleagues are experiencing.

Even an open door and a listening ear could be enough to prevent stress escalating. This is surely the first step to make sure that workplace stress doesn’t sit and breed in silence.

It’s something we should all be mindful about.

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