What can businesses do about stress?
At last, we are talking about stress! I have worked as a GP for over 20years and have helped many people struggling with the physical and mental health consequences of stress. I have signed hundreds of sick notes and have often been asked not to mention the word ‘stress’ because of fear of stigma or judgement. But I am pleased to say that things are changing.
Stress can be defined as the ‘mental, physical and/or emotional responses to situations and/or events that results in tension in the mind, body and spirit’. Stress affects the way we think, it gives rise to physical symptoms and it affects the way we feel. It also affects our social interactions and gives rise to coping behaviours which, unfortunately, are often bad for our health. The causes of stress are many and varied but they all cause stress the same way, through pressure and anxiety.
Businesses are under incredible pressures but without healthy staff they can’t achieve their goals. Staff health and wellbeing has to be a priority. What can managers and business owners do? I suggest a two-prong approach: do what you can to support and appreciate staff but also educate your staff on how to do their bit to look after themselves.
Try to provide an atmosphere where people feel they can talk to someone, if they need to, without feeling judged.
Get to know your staff so you learn to recognise the signs that they are struggling before it is too late.
Encourage the following in your staff: regular short breaks away from a screen, a proper break away from the desk for lunch, regular hydration with water/juice, downtime in the evening and not to work late into the night, to find time for exercise, relaxation and fun.
Staff who feel appreciated and supported, who know how to look after themselves and who know they can ask for help when they need to, are far more likely to work productively and to be a positive presence in the workplace. Surely this is the way forwards.
Dr. Rebecca E. M. Williams MA (Cantab), BM, BCh (Oxon)
Williams Stress Management