Stress Awareness Day - providing the support your employees need

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Author: By Louise Blair, Head of Human Resources at Foster DenovoPosted: 1st November 2017

The National Stress Awareness Day, which takes place every November 1st since 1998, has this year become an International Awareness Day. It's great to see that this day is gaining more importance; a positive step towards tackling the stigma surrounding stress, depression and mental health issues.

Nowadays, we all live under a lot of pressure, both in our personal and professional lives. At work, high demands, tight deadlines and poor people management can affect employees mental health. In fact, 11.7 million working days a year are lost due to stress, which is highly concerning.

Stress is just the cornerstone of many of todays illnesses, hence it needs to be tackled sooner rather than later. I believe, quite often, employees are ashamed to share their concerns at work as they worry about how this could affect their career opportunities or even whether this confession would lead to their performance/productivity being analysed on a regular basis.

A colleague of mine went to a wellbeing conference where she heard that 78% of employers believe their employees would talk about their mental ill health, but the reality is that just 9% of employees said they would openly talk about this. A pretty strong stat in my opinion, so clearly there is room for improvement when it comes to mental health in the workplace.

As mentioned in my previous blog, recognition and early intervention are vital. Its, therefore, recommended the creation of an open culture, where organisations are seen as approachable and that they care about their staff. A two-way communication should also be established, so employees know that they have a voice.

There are further ways to support your employees wellbeing:

  • Flexible working: Encourage a good work-life balance by letting them work around their personal commitments.
  • Lunch breaks: 56% British workers  take their full lunch break, with the average worker only taking 27 minutes. One if four workers simply skip lunch altogether! Therefore, ensure your employees step away from their desks for a period of time each day.
  • Benefits to support employees wellbeing: This could include income protection benefits, healthcare benefits, employee assistance programmes, financial education as well as gym membership, cycle to work scheme, free fruit in the office, and so on.
  • Effective communication: Make sure your employees know the support offered to them. Dont only use traditional methods to communicate such as induction, posters, staff handbooks, desk drops but also utilise technology to reach most of your workforce via employee benefits portal, intranet, email and even social media. If budget allows, group presentations can be a very effective option too.
  • One-to-one meetings: Dont forget that individual face-to-face communication is very important, so regular one-to-one meetings are really valuable. Managers can create a safe and private environment where employees should feel comfortable about sharing their feelings and concerns.

Here at Foster Denovo, for example, we have published a blog aimed at our employees to raise awareness of the day and to highlight the support available for them. The blog is live on our own Mybenefitsatwork website and we have notified our employees via email. Alongside with this, we created posters as well as desk drops with some suggestions on what they could do today to support wellbeing in the workplace.

Our latest research highlighted that nine out of ten HR leaders face challenges when communicating their benefits package to employees. If you would like to read the full report, which includes suggested solutions on communicating effectively in the workplace, please click here.

In addition, our sister company Secondsight, created a wellbeing in the workplace guide, which can be downloaded here.