April is Stress Awareness Month, which is more pertinent than ever due to the rising levels of employee stress experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-pandemic, work-related stress was caused by many things, such as a heavy workload, workplace conflicts, or a lack of support from managers. Currently, the main stressors have magnified to include job insecurity, adapting to different workspaces, and lack of technical skills, to name but a few. Employers and business leaders have to respond proactively to the new realities and adopt a more targeted approach to supporting employees in the post-pandemic work environment.

 

 

How to prevent workplace stress

Besides affecting workplace performance, work-related stress can significantly affect both the physical and mental wellbeing of employees. Working during a pandemic has significantly added stress to our daily lives. Thankfully, employers can help reduce stress at work by focusing on improving their employees’ emotional, mental and physical health. This can include:

Encouraging open communication: When employees can communicate smoothly with their co-workers or manager, it reduces much of their stress. In the case of COVID-19, information sharing through newsletters and internal portals have improved workplace communications.

Staying connected: Staff working from home can lack a sense of belonging and connection to their organisation. Therefore, it’s crucial to help employees to stay socially connected, virtually.

Promote workplace wellness: Exercise and healthy living are excellent for combating workplace stress, so employers should provide fitness activities, nutrition education and mindfulness training for their staff.

Implement employee benefits that provide support

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) offer free and anonymous support for employees and help alleviate mental health issues, financial stress, and overall wellbeing. Confidential services, such as counselling or incident reporting software, can help your staff with personal or workplace issues that might be impacting their performance and mental or physical health. Reflecting on the power of wellbeing services, David Callaghan, CEO at MIT, revealed that clients have personally told him that “MIT’s Employee Engagement Assistance Programme (the confidential counselling services we offer through the portal) has saved lives.”

Make employees aware of the help that is available to them

Employers have to let their employees know what help is out there to enable them to take advantage of their benefits, particularly with regards to mental health. You may have a plan in place to tackle stress within your workplace. In that case, it’s important to raise awareness by communicating messages within internal communications and including information about these programmes within your recruitment process.

If you don’t have one set up already, now would be a great time to establish an Employee Assistance Programme. MIT’s wellbeing benefits provide staff with an outlet to discuss any personal problems or concerns they may be encountering through a confidential counselling helpline, 24/7. While nothing looks or feels the same as our pre-COVID-19 lives, businesses that have worked with MIT have built up the organisational resilience needed to feel optimistic about the road ahead.