Stress awareness month: 488,000 cases of stress, anxiety & depression hit UK workforces last year, how can employers help?

Stress Awareness Month, which takes place in April, aims to raise awareness of stress, anxiety and depression and also to correct misconceptions and teach coping strategies to help sufferers both in and out of the workplace.

It seems that raising awareness of the impact of stress is long overdue.

A report conducted by the Health and Safety Executive revealed that there were 488,000 cases of work-related anxiety and depression in 2015/16, and that 37% of those were caused by stress – 45% of working days were also lost to stress.

Absence management specialist Adrian Lewis from ActivAbsence said:

“We particularly welcome the increase in awareness that will come as a result of Stress Awareness Month.  There is a tendency to minimise stress and anxiety as ‘just a happiness issue’.  It is implicated in absenteeism and poor productivity, and is a serious mental illness which can affect mood, lifestyle, relationships, sleep and of course, performance at work, as well as having some very real physical consequences.

 

“Stress makes the heart beat faster, as the fight or flight response causes the body’s sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol.  The impact on the body goes far beyond mood, as studies continually find a link between stress and many physical ailments.  Stress has been proven to worsen or increase the risk of conditions like obesity, hypertension, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma.  Stress can also trigger an increase in epileptic seizures and MS attacks for sufferers of these conditions.  It is therefore vital that employers become involved in tackling the UK’s stress epidemic. (source: Web MD)

 

“At Activ Absence we believe that helping employees combat stress is vital in both tackling sickness absence from work and poor productivity.  Tackling stress also improves staff wellbeing – everyone wins.  Using line manager training and following good HR practices such as return to work interviews and better recording and management of sickness absence will help identify patterns of stress early on.  From then employers can use expert referrals, medical advice and professional resources and tools to decide on appropriate next steps.”

 

So what resources are available for employers? 

 

MIND free employer resources

Mental health charity MIND recently issued tools and resources for employers in Wales as well as existing resources for other employers.

 

Mental Health in Business has partnered with advice app Rungway in order to launch the mental difference support group.  

Through the app, people can join Mental Difference at Work to get advice and points of view from people in business who have experienced, or are experiencing, any form of mental health challenge, by posting questions publicly or anonymously.

Anonymity is key when seeking advice around sensitive topics or issues, and the discretion of being matched into one-on-one conversations is unique when comparing Rungway to other group chat tools.

Colin Minto, Founder of Mental Health in Business and an ‘open’ sufferer of OCD, is thrilled by the collaboration with Rungway.

“At last, the millions of people globally with personal or related mental difference experience, can engage with a resource to ask questions overtly and, more importantly, covertly to get immediate answers, support, comfort and connectivity to additional resources,” commented Mr Minto.

 

“Mental Difference at Work will help build individuals’ confidence in their capability, demonstrate to the world and businesses that mental difference can improve outcomes and productivity, and celebrate the achievements of those with all forms of difference”.

To join Mental Difference at Work, download Rungway from the App Store or Google Play, then email customer.support@rungway.com requesting access to the group.

 

The OH Business: Look a Stress Risk Assessments

Occupational health expert Jean Fisher of The OH Business recommends employers look at introducing a Stress Risk Assessment, as well as investing in training for line managers.  She says:

“Weaving the stress risk assessment approach through an organisation in team meetings appraisals and at every opportunity, will reduce the sensitivity of difficult issues within an organisation. Issues will be picked up very early and employees will feel that they are heard when they start to feel under pressure. This can start gradually and lead to a more open culture in the long term.”

 

CALLCARE: Read our free report

Outsourced call centre provider CALLCARE is also aiming to help businesses across the UK tackle the main causes of stress in order to improve their employees’ mental health with a new report, and practical steps to reduce workplace stress. From perfecting the office surroundings and drinking more water to outsourcing tasks to professionals and investing in management, their news report examines multiple ways that employers can tackle stress in the workplace and features expert advice on simple ways that employers can look after their staff.   The full report can be accessed here.

Gemma Harding, Head of Corporate Services at CALLCARE, said:

“Stress is a common problem that affects employees across the UK, and it is up to managers to do whatever they can to help minimise the pressure, whether that’s taking work off employees’ hands or just creating a better working environment.

 

“But Stress Awareness Month is just one month out of 12; we believe that stress reduction tactics should be employed with the long term in mind. On the surface it may look great that your staff are staying at their desks through lunch or juggling multiple tasks at once, but underneath it will be having a negative effect on their health, and the wider productivity of the company.

 

“Looking after members of staff isn’t just the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense. Stress-related illnesses can cause long term absences, lower levels of employee engagement and increased chances that staff will leave; all of which are detrimental to a business looking to grow.”