Workplace Stress Management Resource
It is typical for anyone to experience work related stress at times, but too much stress in the office can hinder performance and have negative effects on workers’ health and wellbeing. Up to half a million people in the UK suffer from work related stress, often resulting in illness. In the year 2014/15, stress accounted for 35% of all work related ill health cases and 43% of working days lost due to ill health (HSE).This resource provides an understanding of the ways you can address the problem of stress in the workplace by making small changes to your office and behaviour.
Beat Stress at Work (NHS): http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/workplace-stress.aspx
How to Tackle Work Related Stress (HSE): http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/
Stress Management Standards (HSE): http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards/index.htm
Facts About Stress (International Stress Management Association): http://www.isma.org.uk/about-stress/facts-about-stress/
Are You Vulnerable To Stress? - Questionnaire (Stress Management Society): http://www.stress.org.uk/stresstest.aspx
Relaxation Tips to Relieve Stress (NHS): http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/ways-relieve-stress.aspx
Work Related Stress Increases Risk of Developing Asthma (Counselling Directory): http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/blog/2014/09/26/work-related-stress-asthma/
Business Case for Managing Stress (CIPD): http://www.cipd.co.uk/NR/rdonlyres/F5B27EA2-1A75-4C26-9140-1C9242F7A9C6/0/4654StressmanagementWEB.pdf
BT Group Case Study (HSE): http://www.hse.gov.uk/involvement/casestudies/btgroup.htm
Managing Stress e-Guide (European Agency for Safety and Health at Work): http://eguides.osha.europa.eu/stress/GB-EN/
Extensive Stress Management Resource Page (In-Equilibrium); http://www.in-equilibrium.co.uk/stress-management-resources/
Mindful Employer is an NHS initiative that provides businesses with information and support for staff who experience stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions: http://www.mindfulemployer.net/
Layout & Environment
The layout of your office may have more of an effect on stress than you might expect. Research has shown that working in confined workstations or isolated cubicles contributed to depression and low motivation. Open workplaces have been regarded as having a more friendly and social atmosphere but can also sometimes be extremely distracting and cause stress due to the lack of privacy and workers inability to control their environment. No one likes isolation, but some noise is good – find a balance. Individual preferences should be taken into account but it also important to consider the type of work, as well as the size of your office and workforce.
Your office should have good ventilation and offer natural light to the majority, if not all of your employees. Outdoor views provide visual breaks and help to keep the mind limber and relieve stress. However, if your office doesn’t have scenic views, bring the outdoors inside and introduce some plants into the office. Biophilia shows that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living things, and suggests that the mere presence of plants can help to lower office stress, improve cognitive function and also improve the air quality.
The Right Furniture
Working in an office usually involves spending the majority of your day sitting in an office chair and this position can add stress to the structures of the spine – which can eventually lead to the development of back problems. Experts agree that your chair is perhaps the single most important component of a healthy working environment. If workers are not comfortable this will add to stress, highlighting the importance of comfortable chairs with proper support, appropriately sized desks and the correct monitor height. Therefore, you should take care to provide your employees with an office environment that is ergonomically designed, resulting in happier and healthier workers, improved concentration and productivity, and ultimately a reduction in absenteeism.
Office Ergonomics - Your How-to Guide (Mayo Clinic): http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/office-ergonomics/art-20046169
Mess equals stress. For many people, having a desk filled with papers and general clutter makes it difficult to focus; clutter bombards the mind with excessive stimuli causing our senses to work overtime. This doesn’t just apply to physical mess but also clutter on your computer; files, folders, email inbox etc. which if not kept well organised can add to stress levels. Searching for specific information can also be very time consuming and lost work time means more pressure to get things done.
Sherry Burton Ways, an interior designer, colour therapist, and author of Feel Good Spaces: A Guide to Decorating Your Home for Body, Mind and Spirit, suggests implementing an organisation system in the office. “A complete filing system and storage space can help you organise your office in such a way where everything is in place and in reach for work”.
Aim to have 80% of your desk visible and make an effort to put things back into place before you leave the office so that you are greeted by a nice and tidy desk the next morning. If the office is really quite messy, tackle decluttering as a team – schedule in a complete tidy up, make sure everyone is involved and throw out/recycle everything you no longer need.
Chill Out Areas
Sometimes people just need a quiet space where they can go for 15 minutes to relax, destress and recharge. Providing a chill out zone where employees are able to do this can dramatically help reduce workplace stress and burnout. Some workers may not feel like they are permitted to fully relax or temporarily switch off from work during their breaks, but providing a dedicated space suggests that it is perfectly ok to do so.
A designated area with comfortable sofas, quiet music and neutral coloured walls will allow any employee to unwind free from distractions. Some organisations also like to provide bean bags, vending machines and even pool tables to encourage social activity in their chill out areas. As well as being able to prevent and reduce stress, chill out zones can stimulate creativity, improve the overall quality of work produced, and are an attractive feature to potential employees.
To Sum Up…
Evidence showing that high levels of stress often causes or worsens a number of health issues, on top of the sheer costs to an organisation for stressed workers highlights the overwhelming need for organisations to make reducing stress a main priority. There are many methods to reducing stress in the workplace so before you go ahead and implement any changes, take some time to think about which are best suited to your office and will work best for your workforce.