According to a recent report from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), new or long-standing work-related stress, depression, or anxiety impacted 822,000 workers in Britain in 2020/21 and accounted for half of all work-related ill health cases. Moreover, HSE suggests that more than 15.4 million working days are lost as a result of these three factors at a conservative estimated cost of £5.2 billion to industry, individuals and the government.
Workplace wellness stats that shock
These are pretty shocking figures when you sit and think about it – indeed, if every one in two work-related ill health cases is caused by stress or poor mental health, it suggests there’s an opportunity for employers to dramatically reduce absence levels if they can find ways to better manage stress in the workplace and put more measures in place to support their employees.
If you know what’s bothering your people, you’ve got a great head start to help them overcome their problem
While it may sound simple when you look at it like this, tackling work-related stress is much more difficult in practice. In fact, just knowing where to start can often feel overwhelming for business leaders and HR professionals, who are now under more pressure than ever before to find ways to maintain and improve the wellbeing of their employees. That’s why I wanted to spend some time sharing some of my own experiences and outlining the steps we have taken at Britvic to better support our people.
1. Lead by example
Providing wellbeing sessions, mental health resources and activities like yoga and social outings is one thing, but getting people to attend them is the real challenge. If it’s one you’re facing, why not lead by example and attend/use their resources yourself?
I try to be as open as possible about personally using the wellbeing and development resources we have at our disposal – and I encourage my colleagues in the leadership team to do the same – because I strongly believe that if we set a strong example, others will follow.
The more you communicate openly with your colleagues about the issues that matter, the better your chances of building authentic, trusting relationships that will see them come to you with concerns. If you know what’s bothering your people, you’ve got a great head start to help them overcome their problems.
2. Set clear directions
Work-related stress is often caused by the poor management of workloads and expectations. It’s vital that leaders set out clear goals and that feedback is clear and constructive. I believe it’s ok to challenge people and set high standards of performance, but it’s also important that people know the support is there if they need it. This requires leaders to be present and to really listen to their people, leaning in to help during stressful or turbulent periods.
Taking proactive steps to prevent issues like burnout is a much better course of action than waiting to react to poor mental health
Creating transparency around objectives, strategic goals and business change is also important to ensure people understand the direction of travel, avoiding feelings of uncertainty and lack of clarity. There are few things worse than a workplace that keeps people in the dark, so be the opposite and empower your colleagues with information that will help them feel trusted, included and ultimately confident in their work.
All of this is rooted in strong and effective communication, which is why it’s essential that leaders and HR professionals are given opportunities to develop their communication and people leadership skills – especially knowing that they will inevitably encounter many sensitive situations.
3. Take proactive steps
Observing your people at work and noticing changes in behaviour and temperament is also important to ensure signs of stress are identified early.
Major issues like burnout have some quite clear signs – waning enthusiasm, reduced energy and a lack of motivation, to name a few – but only if you know to look for them. The sooner these issues can be caught and addressed, the better, which is why it’s vital that leaders and HR professionals know what to look for.
Taking proactive steps to prevent issues like burnout is a much better course of action than waiting to react to poor mental health – but inevitably both proactivity and reactivity will always be needed. Encouraging open discussions and regularly ‘checking in’ with people to simply ask them how they are doing, are small steps that can make a big difference, signalling a genuine interest in wellbeing.
4. Creating the safety of reactive support
While there are many things businesses can do to reduce workplace stress, there will always unfortunately be a serious need for wellness initiatives that react to mental health issues and concerns.
To pull back the curtain on what this looks like at Britvic, we all have access to a 24/7 employee helpline in Great Britain and Ireland, and have almost 40 fully trained Mental Health First Aiders on hand (of which I am one – leading by example as I said earlier on). We see it as a much-needed safety net for our people, and in my opinion, it’s one of the best actions a business can take period.
The best time to kick off true workplace wellbeing in your business was ten years ago, the second-best time is right now
5. There’s no time like the present
To give a new take on an old adage, the best time to kick off true workplace wellbeing in your business was ten years ago (or long before then!), the second-best time is right now. Unfortunately, stress in the workplace is inevitable, but there are plenty of steps that employers can take to reduce its impact and create a more supportive, enjoyable and productive environment for their people.