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Coping with work-related stress and supporting staff

The Mental Health FoundationOpens in a new window has found that mental health problems are one of the leading causes of work absence, with 70 million days lost each year due to mental health problems costing employers £2.4bn per year.

According to the Health and Safety ExecutiveOpens in a new window, 822,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, anxiety or depression in 2020/21.

Work-related stress can have a damaging effect on employee health and the productivity, and in turn impact the success of a start-up or smaller business. As an employer, you have a duty to support employee mental health under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974Opens in a new window.

Want to learn more about managing and leading staff?

Discover more about managing people with our free Managing and managing people courseOpens in a new window, which teaches you managerial effectiveness, the skills required and how to develop management skills. As part of our Learn with Start Up LoansOpens in a new window partnership with The Open University, our online course is free to join, delivered by experts and includes a free statement of participation on completion.

What are the benefits of looking after employees’ mental health?

Business owners, managers and supervisors should support employee mental health and wellbeing. This can reduce the risk of workplace stress, leading to more productivity and helping support the growth of your start-up.

According to mental health charity MindOpens in a new window, benefits of supporting staff wellbeing may include:

  • Improved performance – employees may be more productive and help drive innovation and efficiencies.
  • Boost employee engagement – staff may have higher morale, resulting in greater engagement.
  • Retain talent – there may be lower staff turnover if employees are valued and have help to manage their mental wellbeing.
  • Less absence – employees may be less likely to take sick days if their workplace stress is under control.
  • Increased profits – business profits may increase as costs associated with unwell staff are reduced.
  • Enhanced reputation – your start-up may attract better talent and have a positive reputation as an employer.

Steps you can take to support staff

Under the Equality Act 2010Opens in a new window, employers are required to support mental illnesses as they would with physical illnesses. If the mental illness is classified as a disability, the Act protects the employee from discrimination. If an employer fails to meet the individual’s disability needs it could be considered workplace discriminationOpens in a new window.

There are several steps you can take to help reduce anxiety and stress in the workplace, which could help your business to grow.

Encourage work-life balance

Sometimes working longer hours is unavoidable due to deadlines, especially when working in a start-up. However, try not to overload your employees with tasks which see them regularly working late or at weekends. Keep deadlines and workloads realistic.

Recognise employees

Take time to thank and praise your employees when they reach targets and complete challenges. Staff may feel under pressure to succeed, so recognising their efforts can assure them that their hard work is not going unnoticed. Consider rewarding your employees when significant targets are achieved, no matter how big or small, such as a thank you card or team lunch.

Introduce wellness plans

Some businesses introduce employee benefits and perks, so why not make yours centred around wellness?

Gym membership discounts, healthy office snacks, or even annual team days might help towards reducing employee stress levels. Encourage regular breaks and implement exercise into the daily workday to combat stress and anxiety. One approach is to hold walking meetings, with small teams walking outside and talking while on the move.

Training for employees and managers

Employees, including managers and supervisors, should be trained to deal with mental health and physical safety, encouraging a healthy working environment.

Mental health plans may include access to counselling services and making reasonable adjustments for employees who need them. Risk assessments should also be done regularly to identify wellbeing concerns and make adjustments.

Open door policy

Introduce an open door policy as part of your start-up. This allows for employees to talk to a supervisor or manager to voice concerns, ask questions and make suggestions about their working environment. Make sure this is confidential and that the employee feels comfortable and not discriminated against if talking about their mental health needs.

The idea of an open door policy is to create a friendly environment for employees to communicate.

Clarity of job roles and expectations

Ensure each employee is aware of their job role and expectations to reduce ambiguity. Clarity may help prevent unnecessary stress if employees know what is expected of them.

How to spot the signs of stress in the workplace

If you’re unsure about the signs of stress in the workplace, read our guideOpens in a new window on how to spot the signs of work-related stress among your employees. This guide helps you understand how stress can negatively impact your business and how you can spot the signs of a stressed employee.

Learn with Start Up Loans and help your business get off the ground.

Want to understand the impact of work on mental health and wellbeing? Check out our free online courses in partnership with The Open University on wellbeing in the workplace.

Our free Learn with Start Up Loans coursesOpens in a new window include:

Plus free courses on climate and sustainability, teamwork, entrepreneurship and personal development.

This article and the content provided therein is exclusively for informative purposes. Nothing in this article or in its contents is intended to provide advice of any kind (including legal, financial, tax or other professional advice) and should not be relied on as such. You should get professional or specialist advice before doing anything on the basis of the content contained in this article.

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