Prioritizing Worker Stress: Beyond Stress Awareness Month

April is widely recognized as Stress Awareness Month, a time dedicated to shedding light on the pervasive issue of stress and its impact on individuals. 

While the focus on stress during this month is crucial, it’s essential to emphasize the significance of prioritizing worker stress beyond April. Stress can be detrimental to both individuals and organizations, affecting productivity, morale, and overall well-being. Discussing stress, especially work-related stress, is important for raising awareness, reducing the stigma associated with mental health issues and encourage individuals to seek support and take necessary steps to manage stress effectively.

According to the HSE, work-related stress, depression, and anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill health in 2021/2022.

The Significance of Prioritizing Worker Stress

Stress has become an all-too-common aspect of modern work life. Long hours, tight deadlines, heavy workloads, and interpersonal conflicts can contribute to increased stress levels among employees. Ignoring or downplaying worker stress can lead to a host of negative consequences, including decreased productivity, reduced job satisfaction, increased absenteeism, and even long-term health issues. Recognizing and addressing worker stress is not only the responsibility of individuals, but it should also be a crucial focus for employers and organizations.

Work-related challenges are the top source of stress after the pandemic.

Recognizing Stress in the Workplace

Recognizing signs of stress in the workplace is crucial for employees to take appropriate actions and seek support. Here are some common signs that individuals can look out for:

  1. Physical Symptoms: Stress can manifest in various physical symptoms, including headaches, fatigue, muscle tension, stomach-aches, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, and increased susceptibility to illnesses.
  2. Emotional Changes: Pay attention to any significant changes in emotions or mood. This can include increased irritability, anxiety, restlessness, mood swings, feeling overwhelmed, or a sense of being unable to relax or switch off from work.
  3. Cognitive Difficulties: Stress can affect concentration, memory, and decision-making abilities. If you find it challenging to focus, make decisions, or remember details, it could be a sign of work-related stress.
  4. Behavioral Changes: Notice any changes in behavior that may indicate stress. These can include increased absenteeism, procrastination, decreased productivity, withdrawal from social interactions, increased reliance on substances like alcohol or drugs, or changes in eating habits.
  5. Interpersonal Issues: Stress can impact relationships and interactions with colleagues. Look for signs such as increased conflicts, irritability, reduced patience, or feeling isolated or disconnected from others.
  6. Work-related Indicators: Pay attention to indicators specifically related to work. These can include feeling overwhelmed by workload, unrealistic deadlines, constant pressure, lack of control or autonomy, or experiencing job dissatisfaction and burnout.

It’s important to note that everyone’s experience of stress may differ, and not all signs may be present. However, if you notice persistent or significant changes in any of these areas, it may be an indication of work-related stress. If you suspect stress, it’s advisable to seek support from supervisors, HR professionals, or mental health resources available in your organization.

Some causes of work-related stress include:

  • Workload, tight deadlines, too much pressure/responsibility
  • Lack of managerial support
  • Violence and bullying
  • Organizational changes
  • Role uncertainty

The Role of Night Shifts in Worker Stress

An important element to consider when identifying and managing worker stress is time of day. A recent global study found that night shift cleaners experience more stress at work due to sleep deprivation, safety concerns and family life conflict. In addition, many support services such as healthcare, banks, and childcare, primarily operate during regular daytime hours. Night shift workers often face challenges accessing these services, leading to additional stress and inconvenience. It’s important to take this into consideration when identifying and managing worker stress.

Managing Stress in the Workplace

While eliminating stress entirely from the workplace may be challenging, workers can adopt effective stress management techniques to mitigate its impact. Here are some strategies employees can implement:

  1. Recognize and acknowledge stress: Self-awareness is the first step toward managing stress. Identifying stress triggers and acknowledging their impact empowers individuals to take proactive steps toward managing them.
  2. Prioritize self-care: Engaging in regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep are fundamental self-care practices that contribute to stress reduction. Taking breaks during the workday and pursuing hobbies outside of work can also provide much-needed mental rejuvenation.
  3. Practice effective time management: Prioritizing tasks, breaking them into smaller, manageable segments, and setting realistic deadlines can help alleviate stress caused by overwhelming workloads. Additionally, learning to delegate tasks and seeking support when needed can promote a healthier work-life balance.
  4. Foster positive relationships: Cultivating a supportive network of colleagues can help reduce stress levels. Sharing concerns, seeking advice, and collaborating with others can create a more positive and collaborative work environment.

Do you believe you’re experiencing stress? Take this stress screener by the Mental Health American (MHA) to learn more.

Prioritizing Employee Well-being

While there are many stress management techniques employees can try, it’s also important for organizations to take steps towards promoting employee mental health. Organizations play a vital role in creating a work culture that prioritizes employee well-being. Here are some strategies workplaces can implement:

  1. Foster open communication: Encouraging open and honest communication channels between employees and management creates an environment where stress can be acknowledged and addressed. Regular check-ins, feedback sessions, and anonymous surveys can provide valuable insights into employee well-being.
  2. Establish work-life balance initiatives: Encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance by promoting flexible work hours, remote work options, and the use of vacation time. Emphasize the importance of disconnecting from work during non-working hours to prevent burnout.
  3. Provide resources and support: Offer resources such as stress management workshops, counseling services, and access to mental health professionals. Promote awareness of these resources to ensure employees know where to turn when they need support.
  4. Lead by example: Managers and leaders should exemplify healthy stress management practices themselves. Demonstrating a healthy work-life balance, promoting self-care, and actively encouraging stress reduction techniques can influence employees positively.

Stress Awareness Month serves as an important reminder of the prevalence and impact of stress on individuals in the workplace. However, it is essential to prioritize worker stress beyond the month of April. By empowering employees with stress management techniques and creating supportive work environments, organizations can foster a culture of well-being that leads to increased productivity, job satisfaction, and overall happiness.

Prioritizing worker stress should be a year-round commitment that benefits both individuals and organizations alike.

How TEAM Prioritizes Employee Well-being

TEAM Group is committed to employee wellness and has a s number of policies and program in place to help prioritize employee well-being.

Health is Cool 360° Platform: This personal assistance service helps employees manage their health conditions, provides information about specific illnesses and how to improve health, and provides a directory of doctors and specialists.

Whistleblower Policy: A new policy put in place for employees to report activities that may be considered illegal, dishonest, or hurtful. This whistleblower policy allows for employees and employers to report harmful actions or activities that may be damaging to their wellbeing.

Diversity Policy:  TEAM Group is striving to improve its diversity policies and create a more inclusive workplace. TEAM Group believes that a workplace that demonstrates and celebrates diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) creates an environment where all people feel like they are valued.

Sexual Harassment Training for all TEAM Members: TEAM Group is committed to providing sexual harassment training to all employees so that everyone can feel safe in the workplace.

Other Programs: TEAM is committed to promoting employee well-being and raising awareness surrounding mental health through several programs that take place throughout the year. This includes participating in educational events such as LinkedIn Learning and Bell Let’s Talk , providing  medical/wellness centers and onsite workout facilities at select locations, creating revised work from home policies, and organizing puppy days.

TEAM Group refuses to fall short on policies and training that protect employees both physically and mentally. At TEAM Group, we recognize that employees need to feel supported and appreciated in order to perform at their best. As always, our employees remain are our top priority.