Job stress has become a global epidemic. Some work stress is normal, but extreme or chronic pressures harm workers health and interfere with their ability to function.
According to a report by Heads Up, one in five Australian employees report they have taken time off work due to feeling mentally unwell in the past 12 months.
Excessive stress can lead to high absences, low productivity, staff turnover, workers' compensation and other stress-related expenses. It is estimated that untreated mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces approximately $10.9 billion per year. This comprises $4.7 billion in absenteeism, $6.1 billion in presenteeism and $146 million in compensation claims.
Mentally healthy workplaces protect and promote mental health and empower people to seek help. Mental health initiatives should be driven with support from high-level management. When leaders value mental health, there are real benefits to the business — mentally healthy workplaces are likely to be more productive and inspire respect among employees.
Reducing stress is a major factor in creating a mentally healthy workplace. As such, it's important for employers to establish a program that offers employees assistance with managing their stress and equips them with an action plan if they feel overwhelmed.
Handling stress, however, is a very individual matter. The first step is to attempt to identify the cause of the stress and what techniques align best with the individual.
Below, we've outlined three strategies you can implement in your workplace.
Create A Relaxing Environment
To start, a simple way of reducing stress in the workplace is to ensure that employees feel comfortable. For instance, it may be helpful to cut out background music and go for a more relaxed atmosphere or let employees listen to their own music through headphones.
Designing the office space can also help. Try arranging office furniture to allow for free movement and open communication as well as separate areas for work, meetings and lunch breaks. Having an external space such as a courtyard offers a change of scenery that can give your fatigued mind a break and boost mood.
Encourage Mindfulness Practices
Some people bring stress with them to the workplace through their disposition. Mindfulness is a technique that helps individuals become aware of their thoughts, feelings and surroundings. The goal is to increase understanding of one's reactions and how they affect thinking and behaviour patterns. By telling yourself you're going to fail or by expecting negative reactions from other people, you may create your own stress.
Some of these techniques include affirmations, meditation, or re-framing negative thoughts. These are restorative techniques that can help you to stay grounded, pay attention to the present moment and reduce stress.
Sharpen Communication Skills
Another impactful way to combat stress is to hone one's communication skills. Educating workers on how to speak about their own needs and wants as well as giving positive and negative feedback is critical. This is what many refer to as assertiveness.
In order to be successful, support must be available from leaders and be met with empathy rather than judgement. When leaders are able to listen to workers' concerns and offer guidance, employees feel valued and empowered.
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