Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Reducing employee stress must be a workplace priority as external pressures intensify

In recent years, employees have had to navigate one hurdle after the next – a global pandemic, followed by a cost of living crisis, unprecedented energy price spikes, and rampant inflation. These realities have taken a toll on the mental health and wellbeing of the nation and have no doubt permeated into the workplace.

Organisations have become more aware of the importance of caring for the whole employee – physically, mentally, and emotionally – and many meet these needs through enhanced benefits and training for managers and leaders just to name a few. However, employers who ignore the mental health difficulties reported by staff will struggle with poor employee engagement, low productivity, and high turnover.

Employers have a critical opportunity to become an anchor of stability for their employees by meeting the right kinds of needs at the right times. It’s time for all leaders to recognise that we’re living in the midst of a human energy crisis. In response, they now need to ramp up efforts to relieve the mental health difficulties their employees are facing.

Lowering stress is the key to retention

Employees will jump ship if their job is putting a strain on their mental health – according to the Workforce Institute at UKG, 64% of employees admit they would take a pay cut for a job that better supports their mental wellness.

To keep staff happy and ensure they commit their long-term future to the business, people managers should take steps to improve employee welfare and show their teams that they truly care.

Investing in life-work technology is an effective means of helping to establish a healthy work-life balance for all staff and reduce the risk of burnout. This technology considers employees’ emotions and preferences during decision-making processes, providing them with the agency and flexibility they need to thrive both in life and at work.

Businesses can also support employees by celebrating their achievements and making them feel valued, while also empowering them with autonomy to make decisions for themselves. Additionally, it’s important to educate employees on why their role is important and how they add value to the organisation, as this will provide people with a sense of purpose and motivate them to succeed.

These efforts not only improve the mental health of employees, it helps improve the overall employee experience which we know translates to better business performance.

It's important for businesses to find meaningful ways to address common stressors weighing heavily on their people by focusing on the moments that matter to them in life and work with the HR technology they use. Utilising a modern HR tool where employees can access informational resources is a good starting point, which can be further backed up by training sessions and guest speaker talks with a specific focus on wellbeing. If staff are given the tools to help them take care of their own mental wellbeing, it can provide them with the chance to reduce stress and boost productivity.

Navigating the human energy crisis

Economic instability caused by the energy crisis has left employees feeling overwhelmed. According to the Office for National Statistics, 51% of bill payers are struggling to afford their monthly bills and reporting high levels of anxiety. As well as impacting other areas of people’s lives, this can have a knock-on effect on workplace culture, retention and performance.

While many of the issues contributing to the human energy crisis are outside of an employer’s control, leaders and people managers can make a meaningful impact to the employee experience and life-work journey.

For example, businesses can put operational processes in place that foster physical and mental wellbeing through fair, flexible, and personal scheduling. Giving people more direct control over when, where, and how they work is key, and it’s also important to ensure that managers are provided with guidance so that they can support their teams as effectively as possible. This can then help boost employee confidence, promote life-work synergy, and reduce stress.

Similarly, allowing employees to self-service actions, such as swapping shifts, through an HR portal provides an added layer of flexibility, while also enabling workers to pick up additional hours.

Accommodating a multigenerational workforce

Business leaders must remember that employees are individuals, and some workers will be affected by stress more than others based on their unique circumstances, which may be driven by the stage of life they’re in. Approaching employees with a tailored HR strategy that acknowledges age and life situation can be hugely beneficial, as certain age groups may experience anxiety or similar challenges on a more regular basis − 91% of 18-to-24-year-olds report being stressed, compared to 84% on average. As well as age, employers should also consider how other demographics, for instance gender, affect employee wellbeing in the workplace.

Menopause is a prime example of a life stage for women that can severely impact mental health and wellbeing. Additionally, the recent rejection of proposed changes to menopause law in the workplace could leave female employees feeling neglected, and business should respond by educating employees about the impacts of the menopause as well as providing flexible working styles for people experiencing this life-changing phase.

Businesses are ultimately set to benefit from a well-supported and empowered multigenerational workforce, as different age groups have differing approaches to working and problem-solving. This diversity of thought will ensure any challenges are tackled from all angles and staff will be able to learn new skills from one another.

At the same time, bringing together generations of workers is also key to boosting collaboration and understanding. This could look like organising social events to give employees a chance to strengthen interpersonal relationships with colleagues and build a network of staff they feel they can depend upon.

Show staff you care

Businesses need to show employees that they have their finger on the pulse and understand that the current economic and social climate is difficult to navigate. Businesses of all sizes are responsible for the wellbeing of their staff, and there are mounting pressures on people coming from all directions, so it’s never been more important for organisations to put people at the heart of their operations to ensure they are supported financially, mentally and physically. Only then can people bring their best to their role, and ultimately help businesses to thrive.