Workplace stress is a common issue and can have a significant impact on the health and productivity of employees. In small businesses, where resources are often limited, stress can be even more challenging to manage. In the UK, stress is estimated to cost the economy £28 billion each year in lost productivity and healthcare costs and 23.3m sick days a year (according to AXA insurance). This article aims to explore the causes and effects of stress in the workplace, the challenges small businesses face in managing stress, and most importantly strategies for stress management.
Causes of Stress
There are many factors that can contribute to stress in the workplace, including:
- Workload: Too much work, or work that is too demanding, can be a major source of stress.
- Time pressure: Feeling rushed or under pressure to meet deadlines can also lead to stress.
- Conflict: Conflict with colleagues, managers, or customers can be a major source of stress.
- Uncertainty: Uncertainty about job security, future prospects, or the company’s financial situation can also lead to stress.
- Work-life balance: Difficulty balancing work and personal commitments can also be a source of stress.
Effects of Stress
Stress can have a significant impact on both employees and businesses. For employees, stress can lead to:
- Health problems: Stress can contribute to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and anxiety and depression.
- Reduced productivity: Stress can make it difficult to concentrate, make decisions, and be creative. This can lead to reduced productivity and errors at work.
- Absenteeism: Stress can lead to employees taking more sick days or leaving the workforce altogether.
- Turnover: Stress can make employees more likely to leave their jobs.
As you can see from the lists above there are a number of factors that can create stress. It’s important to remember they affect people in different ways and at different levels of intensity. We are all unique, especially in small businesses where people know their colleagues in a different way from larger corporations.
That is why we at the Su Chantry Hub offer a unique and bespoke approach. As an independent Occupational Health Nurse, I have a unique insight into small businesses. I’m able to really understand your small business and the opportunities and challenges it brings. Crafting a tailored programe for stress risk management in your business. Interested to discover more, start the conversation here.
If you are an employer or employee you can start by looking at the factors above and mark them on a scale of 1 to 10. Do remember that everyone has a different scale and way of elevating the impact of stress on them. When marking these factors, note if they have increased sharply or slowly over time.
The above list is a great starting point to create some monthly workplace well-being KPIs. If you need support creating or monitoring wellness KPI’s do feel free to reach out here. You may want to monitor these factors for yourself and/or your team. Prolonged exposure to stress can increase the risk of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and burnout, in addition to physical health concerns like high blood pressure and heart disease. While productivity and absenteeism can be easier to spot, do also reflect on the health impacts as well.
Strategies for Managing Workplace Stress
There are a number of strategies that small businesses can use to manage stress in the workplace. Below are some general strategies to consider:
- Create a healthy work environment: A healthy work environment is one that is free from conflict, harassment, and discrimination. It is also one that provides employees with the resources they need to do their jobs effectively.
- Provide stress management training: Stress management training can teach employees how to identify and manage stress. This training can be provided in-house or through external providers.
- Encourage employees to take breaks: Employees should be encouraged to take breaks throughout the day to relax and de-stress. This could include taking a walk, listening to music, or doing some light stretching. Often changing the environment, even for a moment, can help change an employee’s mood and thinking.
- Offer flexible work arrangements: Flexible work arrangements, such as hybrid or compressed workweeks, can help employees to better balance their work and personal lives.
- Create a supportive work culture: A supportive work culture is one where employees feel comfortable talking about stress and seeking help when they need it.
It’s important for small businesses to remember that investing in employee wellness not only benefits individuals but also contributes to the overall success of the business. By prioritizing employee well-being, small businesses can improve morale, retain talent, and create a positive work environment. If you would like an in-depth analysis of bespoke strategies for your small business we would love to start that conversation here.
Challenges Faced by Small Businesses
When it comes to managing stress in the workplace, small businesses face a number of challenges such as:
- Limited resources: Small businesses often have fewer resources to invest in stress management programs and initiatives.
- Lack of time: Small business owners are often so busy running their businesses that they don’t have time to focus on stress management.
- Lack of knowledge: Small business owners may not be aware of the importance of stress management or the resources that are available to them.
The unique challenges for small businesses can mean that their wellness program is more limited than bigger companies and more creativity is needed. It’s also important to note that small business owners may have to juggle multiple tasks which can increase stress levels, leaving little time to focus on staff wellbeing. Using additional resources such as Occupational Health Experts can help and support you.
Products, Services, and Tools
Working with your Occupational Health Expert, together you can create a stress wellness offering for your particular business. There are a number of products, services, and tools that can help small businesses manage stress in the workplace. These include:
- Employee assistance programs: Employee assistance programs (EAPs) provide confidential counselling and other services to employees who are struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression.
- Stress management apps: There are a number of stress management apps available that can help employees to identify and manage stress.
- Online resources: There are a number of online resources that provide information and tips on stress management. Here are some from the Health and Safety Executive.
Having a well-rounded plan for your employee wellness is vital in companies today. As a small business maybe everything on your wish list is achieved straight away. However, working toward them over time. Also, remember to review with your Occupational Health Expert annually. They will have insight from other similar businesses and highlight any new challenges or trends they are seeing.
Stress is a common problem in the workplace, and it can have a significant impact on both employees and businesses. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to the effects of stress, as they often have fewer resources to deal with it, but it is essential to improve employee well-being and maintain productivity. Lifestyle changes, trigger identification, support systems, and clear communication are all effective strategies for managing stress in the workplace. Additionally, products or services such as ergonomic equipment and online therapy services can help small business owners manage stress effectively. By implementing these strategies, small businesses in the UK can create a healthy work environment that benefits both employees and the business as a whole.
As mentioned in the article above, there are steps you can take yourself. However, if you are looking for bespoke expert advice for your small business we would love to talk. Working with a variety of small businesses we understand their uniqueness. If you need support implementing, reviewing, or creating a Stress Wellness program in your small business, I would love the opportunity to share some more insights with you. Contact me here.