The Business Cost of StressOn National Stress Awareness Day I want to focus on the business impact of stress; it is now the single biggest cause of sickness absence in the UK. In 2017/18, 15.4 million days were lost due to stress, depression and anxiety.

Stress affects one in five of the working population.  Stress doesn’t discriminate against age, disability, race, faith, gender, sexual orientation or your hierarchical position within an organisation.   It can affect anyone at any time.

Recognising the signs of stress in your employees or co-workers can be difficult but legally, employers have a duty of care to ensure the general safety and well-being of staff while they are at work. Work-related stress can arise for a number of reasons including excessive workloads, whether imposed or perceived, or it could be caused by harassment at work

What are the Signs of Stress?

People show signs of stress in different ways, both physically and emotionally. Signs of stress range from muscle tension and heart rate increase to anger, frustration or lack of confidence.

A tool I use with many business leaders and their organisations is Insights Discovery. Insights Discovery is a simple yet powerful tool which increases self-awareness and is particularly helpful to enable organisations to become aware and understand behavioural changes caused by stress. Once you have this awareness you’re then in a position to spot the signs.

So those individuals who enjoy ‘Fiery Red’ energy may start to become aggressive and impatient particularly if things aren’t being delivered fast enough so they take over and stop listening. Whereas those who enjoy ‘Cool Blue’ energy may become nit-picking or withdrawn and may even move into analysis paralysis as they endeavour to take on more and more information.

Understanding Stress in your Co-Workers

Each person, depending upon their personality traits, is likely to need support in a different way.  As a leader it’s therefore important to take the time to really get to know your people.  To understand and listen to them. To observe their interactions and body language. The Insights Discovery tool works for me. I can spot colour energies in others so it helps me to look for ways to support them but equally, I can signpost my team when I’m having a bad day so they know how to help me.

Understanding someone else from their perspective is really powerful. We should also recognise that on a good day some people may respond well to stress. They pull out all the stops and deliver their best work. However, for others, they may be having a bad day and prolonged or additional stress may cause them to flip out and behave in an ‘uncharacteristic’ way, such as becoming very emotional or withdrawn.

Top Tips for Managers or Leaders for Reducing Stress

  • As a manager or leader be prepared for your team members to reach out to you
  • Put time aside every day to check in with your team
  • Tune into those who might silently be wanting help, as well as those who overtly ask for assistance
  • Sometimes we just have to step away and put the task aside for another day. It’s a bit like driving a car – if you keep the engine in 1st gear it’s going to sound pretty awful and you’re not going to get very far, yet when you change gear which actually turns the cogs slower you get to where you want to faster and more efficiently
  • Encourage your team to consider all aspects of their life. The Wheel of Life is a great way to see how balanced your life is and where you might need to spend some more time to nourish yourself.
  • Some individuals can feel enormous stress when they don’t have the full picture or details so remember to ask team members what they need, provide clear instructions or help develop a plan with realistic deadlines
  • Get active – going for a walk can be a great way to change your mood and its good exercise too
  • Find out what calms you down – whether this is listening to music, dancing, singing, watching films tune into where you need to go to calm down and re-energise

Many employees are reluctant to talk about stress. Charities such as  MIND are really helping to remove any stigma associated with mental health issues in the workplace and are encouraging everyone talk and seek help at the earliest opportunity.

If you think the Insights Discovery model could help you and your staff understand how to recognise and manage the signs of stress get in touch.  Email: Tel: 01952 301302.