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Will Mitchell


Director of Consulting

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Blog: What to do when 2012 anxieties becomes 2013 stress


2013 is now well and truly underway. The Christmas trees are down, New Year’s resolutions have already been broken, and employees are back at work.

But, after the hype of the festive season, and when faced with hundreds of emails to sift through, it can be difficult for employees to settle back in – particularly for those individuals who were already stressed in the lead up to Christmas.
In response to an investigation on workplace stress – which was carried out by UK health cash plan provider Medicash – we came up with a LinkedIn poll before the holidays:
According to a recent study, the Christmas break may offer ‘no relief’ from workplace stress. How would you describe your current stress levels?
  1. Fine, I’m not stressed out at all
  2. My stress levels have definitely increased
  3. My stress levels have increased and it’s affecting my work.
Worryingly, we found that over half of respondents (65%) admitted that they were stressed at the end of last year, with 30% of those revealing that this had an impact on their work.
Early warning signs
We know that stress can have serious health implications, and it’s clear from these results that more needs to be done to tackle this issue in the workplace – not only for the general wellbeing of individuals but also for the productivity of the organisation.
In fact, it has been estimated that the UK economy loses £3.7 billion per year with more than 13 million employees at risk of mental health problems, according to a study by the Priory Group. So what can you do to reduce the stress now that Christmas has been and gone?
Perhaps the first step is to create an open environment with a nurturing support network. There can often be a stigma associated with stress and related mental health problems, and HR teams need to recognise this and encourage individuals to share their concerns.
It’s key to familiarise yourself with the early warning signs, and ensure that all employees know what to look out for. Tiredness, irritability, and low self-esteem are common symptoms that you should be aware of so that the underlying causes can be resolved in advance before the stress leads to illness.
Developing the personal skills and mindset of employees is another useful method. Evidence suggests, for example, that high levels of resilience can lead to experiencing reduced levels of stress.
Resilience can be enhanced through workshops, building self-awareness, mentoring programmes, and learning feedback and coaching techniques.
Causes and consequences
In addition, try to boost morale by keeping your workforce engaged. Rewards and recognition can really make a difference to an employee who is feeling underappreciated and stressed, particularly in an uncertain climate.
It’s important to offer staff the right organisational environment so that they have the opportunity to take control of their own careers, and help understand their own personal strengths, ambitions, motivational drivers and achievements.
They will then have a better understanding of their current value to the company, their future value and the routes they can take to fulfil their potential.
So, if you want to ensure that you and your employees have a happy, healthy, and productive year, it’s fundamental to take notice of the causes and consequences of stress in the workplace.
Given the results of the poll, it’s likely that members of your team were stressed in the run up to Christmas. Were you aware of this? Were there measures in place to respond to it?
You and your employer have a joint responsibility for the welfare of your staff and have the capability to reduce their stress levels – why not make it top of the agenda for 2013?

Will Mitchell is director of consulting at talent management consultancy, A&DC.

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3 Responses

  1. The gulf between management idealism and employee cynicism

     Sorry, but the opinions from the coalface differ. Office politics reflect the reality of domination by the alpha’s of the species – your BBC doco ‘Machines of Loving Grace’ ep2 highlighted some of the behaviorial science involved. I often wonder whether the naive belief that a corporate ‘mission statement’ to nurture and care which so totally belies reality of harsh workplaces breeding employee insecurity could be due to dearth of formal HR qualifications? Is the lack of professionalism the reason for accepting a role as management mouthpiece/henchmen? This opinion isn’t solely due to my military past and recalling the MP/coxswain function, but personal experience of one of the world’s 50 largest using HR and abusing process to show me the door following a whistle-blow of criminal corruption.

  2. Maybe not…

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for your comment. I completely agree that workforce morale is key to increased productivity, but as to why companies struggle to adopt an open, nurturing environment, I have to say the answer isn’t crystal clear. Perhaps it is fair to say that the issue of stress is still a fairly new and taboo subject, only rearing its head in difficult times. Or even the difficulty with identifying clearly where staff are stressed could be holding businesses back from a solution. I hope that more employers recognise this and that we start to see a decrease in the number of stress-related illnesses in the workplace. In the mean time though, I’d personally like to start seeing some best practice examples of how the HR community have shown a business benefit through a tangible reduction in stressed employees.


  3. Does it have to be this way?

    "Perhaps the first step is to create an open environment with a nurturing support network. There can often be a stigma associated with stress and related mental health problems, and HR teams need to recognise this and encourage individuals to share their concerns."…

    This is a really important issue that is often high profile but less often actually effectively dealt with in the workplace.
    We all know how challenging the economic situation is at the moment but does this really mean we have to work harder or longer then ever before?

    Wouldn’t we all agree that a happy and focussed workforce produces better results then a bunch of people constantly worried about what they do?

    If companies would simply adopt just what is quoted above, I believe employees would be much more effective at work and actually help lead their business forward much more effectively.

    So why don’t they?

    durhamlane provide sales training courses and IT sales training

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Will Mitchell

Director of Consulting

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