How can employers be more stress aware?

April marks Stress Awareness Month, a campaign designed to make us all more aware of the causes of stress, and how we can recognise and combat these.

At Skills 4, we recognise and discuss the dangers of burnout, particularly as 40% of people gave burnout as the reason they left their job in 2021.

Of course, we all know the usual stress busters: getting a good amount of sleep, practising mindfulness and spending time in nature. But what can employers do to help reduce, and hopefully eliminate stress and burnout for their employees?

Respect employees’ time and be flexible

We all have a life outside of work, and giving employees a little more flexibility, whether that’s flexitime working hours, or the ability to join a meeting remotely instead of in the office, will give them a little more breathing room. Reducing their stress in this way will improve their quality of life, and you’ll see the results in their work, and overall morale.

Employers can also do their part to ensure the end of the work day is just that, by not expecting employees to respond to work calls or emails outside office hours. It will also benefit companies to support employees’ rights to take their full annual leave, and discourage them from working through their lunch break. Employees who are well rested will be more productive, and less likely to take sick leave – approximately half of sick leave taken is caused by stress or mental ill health. Employees will also be less likely to seek employment elsewhere.

Celebrate small wins

It can be easy to forget the power of gratitude, but a thank you goes a long way. Employees lost in the chaos of a hectic workload may not be able to see the wood for the trees, so taking a moment to show your appreciation, even if it’s just a thank you email or a gift card, goes a long way. There are a variety of ways companies can make their employees feel seen, from ‘employee of the month’ plaudits to team days out and offering bonuses or rewards for work achievements. Even giving shout outs to individuals for their work, whether on emails or in meetings, will make them feel visible and appreciated.

Promote a diverse and inclusive atmosphere

Companies with higher levels of diversity often attract and retain more employees who consider these workplaces desirable. According to a 2023 report by Diversity for Social Impact, companies with diverse allyship initiatives have 21% higher employee engagement levels than those that do not.

To support them in their aim to create and maintain a diverse workplace, employers should take steps to recognise and eliminate unconscious bias and microaggressions. They can do this by encouraging individuals to speak up in meetings and ensuring everyone’s voices are heard. Skills 4 can offer the Inclusion Allies programme to help them in this aim.

Communicate effectively and set clear goals

Many employees will have at some point or other worked themselves to the bone to meet an unrealistic deadline, or wasted time on unnecessary work because the nature of a project was unclear or constantly shifting. Employers can make a world of difference by striving to only set SMART goals for workloads so employees have all the information about what needs doing, and when it needs doing by. They should also communicate how the work serves the company, and give employees as much flexibility as possible on how they work.

Employees are at risk of taking sick leave from stress, or leaving a company altogether when they feel they’re being kept in the dark about workloads, project changes or company restructuring. Companies should be as transparent as possible with their teams about their aims and any setbacks and should avoid displaying bias. Our Unconscious Bias workshop provides more information on how to create psychologically safe, equitable workplaces.




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