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Tackling workplace stress on National Stress Awareness Day

With over 13.3 million working days lost every year due to stress, depression and anxiety according to the Mental Health Foundation, Fourfront Group is today (4 November) on National Stress Awareness Day, encouraging employers and employees across the country to listen to their bodies, individually and as a collective, and to undertake physical and mental activities that will help individuals de-stress and rejuvenate in order to increase business productivity and boost employee satisfaction.

Mirroring the International Stress Management Association’s chosen theme this year, which is ‘employee wellbeing as a worthwhile investment in your business’; Fourfront is suggesting that a happier and healthier workforce should be at the forefront of business leaders’ agendas. The Group is aiming to use the annual stress awareness campaign as a catalyst for conversation; however, recent research has indicated, there is a long way to go.

The workplace is often blamed for soaring stress levels, which in turn can have a detrimental impact on business performance. According to Fourfront Group authority figures must realise that the individuals as part of a collective workforce all have variable abilities when it comes to handling workload and stress; some may have and honour their own stress-reducing techniques, whereas others may not have effective coping mechanisms at their disposal.

Leeson Medhurst, workplace consultant from Fourfont Group, offers his top tips for managing stress:

Get talking
In order to increase not just performance and productivity, but also staff morale, loyalty and retention, businesses need to actively monitor their employees’ health, happiness and wellbeing levels by establishing an open and honest communications policy. Employees should be able to approach their peers and managers about issues concerning their wellbeing without feeling judged.

Freud was perhaps onto something with his ‘talking cure’; talking can help treat an abundance of psychological disorders and emotional difficulties. There’s a way to encourage teams to communicate with each other without compromising focus and effort. Companies should set up cosy and comfortable communal areas that individuals can use as a breakaway space when workloads get demanding. By actively promoting professional relationships by utilising space to encourage dialogue, business directors will get much more from their staff.

However, talking will only get you so far – it’s about listening too. According to the likes of Richard Branson, listening is the key to all effective and worthwhile conversation. Being a good listener can help you see the world through the eyes of others. If companies are concerned about their internal or external communications, there are various courses across the UK that offer listening skills training.

Get moving
Numerous research studies have promulgated that regular exercise can help to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Regardless of whether individuals are primarily desk-based, there are ways and means of ensuring that workers can undertake physical activity during contracted hours. Stretching and walking are two of the easiest (and most subtle!) activities that can help relieve both mental and physical tension. Employers should actively encourage people to take their breaks; desk-side lunching is not healthy, nor is it particularly helpful in refreshing tired minds. Get people up and on their feet!

Get drinking
Get your employees drinking more water. Dehydration hinders an individual’s ability to process information and produce work. Even mild dehydration impacts productivity; it also has a negative effect on general health and wellbeing. Invest in water-dispensing units or ensure that individuals have access to fresh, cool running water. It’s easy to forget to drink water so businesses can also display signs to encourage people to refill their glass at least a few times every day.

Get balanced
In addition to these tips, it’s important that companies encourage a flexible work/life balance. We’ve all heard the saying; ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ – if a person isn’t allowed sufficient time to switch off from work, either in the workplace or at home, then the person in question will become both bored and boring.

If companies wish to strive for a creative, productive, energetic and happy workforce, business leaders should review their communications policies, encourage physical exercise, create comfortable spaces and allow employees to work and play in equal measure.

About Sarah OBeirne

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