Guest blog by Kerry Drury, Culture and Engagement Strategist from O.C. Tanner Europe
Workplace stress is increasing at a phenomenal rate, with recent research by The O.C. Tanner Institute finding that 45 per cent of UK workers admit their jobs are creating a great deal of negative stress in their lives, with the UK being the third most stressed nation (behind India – 51 per cent and Germany – 48 per cent).
Some organisations are more stress-inducing then others, creating toxic cultures that lead to disengaged, resentful and miserable employees with deteriorating health and wellbeing. It’s therefore vital for organisational leaders to put their workplace cultures under the microscope and address the real causes of stress sooner rather than later, but what key areas should they be focusing on?
Here, Kerry Drury, Culture and Engagement Strategist from workplace culture specialist, O.C. Tanner Europe, gives her expert advice using supporting research from O.C.Tanner’s 2018 Global Culture Report.
- Champion a culture of tolerance and acceptance – If employees don’t feel as though they ‘fit in’ and can’t be their authentic selves, they will always be guarded, ‘on edge’ and an outsider. Feeling a sense of belonging is a powerful feeling that can help to keep stress at bay, and so ensure the culture promotes inclusivity and diversity. In fact, when an organisation’s culture is ‘inclusive’ employees are 68 per cent more likely to believe they can be their authentic selves at work.
- Give employees control over how they integrate work and their personal lives – When work negatively impacts people’s personal lives, such as when employees feel pressurised to respond to work-related emails in their own time, stress is heightened. Workers must be allowed time to ‘switch off’ and unwind without fearing reprisal, and leaving the workplace on time must be promoted rather than frowned upon. When employees are given control over how they integrate their working lives with their personal lives, stress is reduced by 30 per cent, and so allowing staff to find the work-life balance that best suits them, must become an organisational priority.
- Develop leaders who are mentors – Leaders directly impact an employee’s wellbeing, be it good or bad. It’s therefore key to train leaders to be mentors and advocates, supporting their teams, engendering trust, sharing responsibility and giving credit. Leaders who ‘give orders’, take credit and ultimately don’t put their people first, will increase stress among the workforce.
- Show appreciation – There is a powerful connection between wellbeing and appreciation. After all, if employees don’t feel valued or recognised for the efforts they put in, this will allow resentment and bitterness to fester and ultimately, stress will set in. When employees experience recognition they feel a 8.8 per cent increase in their wellbeing and a 33 per cent increase in a sense of belonging.
- Encourage camaraderie and friendships – Employees are more engaged and happy when they enjoy camaraderie with their colleagues and make workplace friendships. In fact, social connections at work are key to combating feelings of loneliness which 45 per cent of Gen Z and 35 per cent of Millennials are suffering with. Leaders must therefore focus on creating a workplace in which face-to-face communications and interactions are encouraged. Relaxed, communal spaces that allow for collaboration and socialising will also help staff to connect with others, building those all-important friendships.
Stress and its impacts cannot be tackled back-to-front, with organisations investing their resources into supporting those staff already exhibiting signs of stress. Leaders must analyse their workplace cultures and tackle the stress-inducing elements head-on. By nurturing a tolerant and accepting culture that puts its people first, from the way they are led and managed through to their social and emotional wellbeing, this will ensure stress is kept to a minimum and the workforce is happy, healthy and motivated.