A recent study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found 45% of people aged 16 – 85 will experience a mental health condition. It’s estimated that untreated mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces approximately $10.9 billion each year.
This is comprised of:
$4.7 billion in absenteeism
$6.1 billion in presenteeism
$146 million in compensation claims.
There are some other findings that are alarming as well:
1 in 5 employees report they have taken time off work due to feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unwell. This statistic is more than double among those who consider their workplace mentally unhealthy.
81% of organisational leaders indicate their workplace have policies, procedures and practices to support mental health but many employees don’t know that these exist.
Only 56% believe their senior leader values mental health.
With this week being Mental Health Week and Thursday 10th October being World Mental Health Day it’s the perfect time for leaders to show their people that mental health is a priority.
In this article I’ll be sharing information on workplace stress, symptoms of workplace stress and how you can avoid it.
What is workplace stress?
In small doses stress is a normal part of our day and a healthy response to our work as it helps us stay alert, productive and perform at our best. But when it becomes ongoing and in high doses it becomes harmful to our mental health.
Unhealthy workplace stress is physical and emotional responses that can happen when there’s a conflict between job demands and the amount of control a person has in meeting these demands.
Signs and symptoms of workplace stress
How a person experiences stress varies from person to person, they can be physical, psychological and behavioral.
Physical symptoms include:
Increased heart rate
Changes in appetite
Digestive issues such as: Diarrhoea, constipation and stomach cramps
Decreased energy and or insomnia
Psychological symptoms include:
Feelings of overwhelm and inability to cope
Reduced ability to make decisions and poor judgement
Working longer hours but not able to achieve the same amount of output
Behavioural symptoms include:
Reduced productivity performance
Interpersonal relationship problems
Reduced tolerance for others
Loss of interest in work and things that usually brings enjoyment
Prolonged and unchecked stress can lead to burnout, depression, anxiety and personality disorders
The impact of workplace stress
Unhealthy workplace stress has major consequences for organisations and their people. Performance drops, illness and absenteeism increase, there are higher rates of turn over which creates disruption throughout the organisation and working capacity can be significantly reduced. It’s vital that leader’s role-model healthy behaviours and work together in breaking down the stigma of mental health by having open conversations and creating a safe space for their people to feel heard, understood and not judged.
Some factors that contribute to workplace stress
Poor workplace culture
Lack of clarity
Lack of autonomy
Changing deadlines and role responsibilities
Lack of security
Workplace role and demands
Changes in management
Insecurity in position
4 Ways you can reduce workplace stress
While some things may be well outside our control category there are many things that we can control, to reduce the impact of workplace stress. Here’s four things you may like to try.
Form positive working relationships
In a recent study conducted by Dr Lindsay McMillan concluded that 1 in 5 workers have experienced major problems in communication with a co-worker or boss at work. We’re naturally social creatures who crave healthy interactions and friendships with the people around us. It makes good business sense to forge healthy relationships in our workplaces to help us be happier, healthier and more productive.
Do, Delete, Delegate
Do the high priority and dollar producing jobs first
Delete the emails and activities that aren’t getting the results you want
Delegate the tasks you can get someone else to do. This frees your time up and helps boost the morale of your organisation by showing your team you trust they are capable, this in turn helps your people become more engaged and builds their confidence.
Unplug & spend time in nature
Allow one day a week unplugged from your devices. Enjoy quality time with your friends and loved ones away from the distractions of devices.
There is strong scientific evidence that indicate spending time in nature offers us a range of health benefits including; reduced risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and increases sleep duration.
Take regular circuit breaks during the day to reset and refocus by getting outside. Even if you’re in a city, get outside look up to the sky, sit quietly under a tree, feel the wind in your face. You’ll feel the difference almost immediately.
When we feel stressed our breathing rate and heart rate increases in preparation for fight or flight. The good news is that we can interrupt this response by practicing breathing techniques. You may like to try this breathing meditation.
If you’d like to have a chat on ways I can help reduce stress in your workplace, please get in touch.