Workplace stress has swiftly become a growing problem for both employees and employers with UK mental health charity Mind, revealing that 21% of workers had called in sick to avoid stressful scenarios. The stats also saw 42% of respondents claim they have considered resigning due to stress while 14% went to seek new employment.

Half of the UK’s workplaces report mental health problems within their workforce, however, only 14% have a formal mental health policy in place. With such a detrimental effect on both mental health and productivity, employers need to establish a culture that promotes mental wellbeing.

Many workplaces suffer from a disconnect between employee stress levels and employers picking up on the issues. Even when there is acknowledgement, many companies focus on how likely an employee is to suffer from stress instead of looking to deal with the causes.

Tech giants like Google offer playful office environments fully equipped with designated sleep areas, whilst Virgin provide employees with unlimited holiday days, but there are easier ways for managers to promote a healthy working environment.

Recognise stress as an issue

Throughout 2015/16, stress accounted for 45% of all working days lost due to ill health and companies that don’t recognise it as a problem stand to lose out on profit and talented staff. While a ‘Band-Aid’ approach may offer a quick fix, locating the causes of workplace stress can help create a more streamlined business.

HSE define some of the most common causes of workplace stress as:

  • Overload – Excessive workloads combined with tight deadlines
  • Control – A lack of influence towards the way the workplace is run
  • Support – The level of information and support employees receive from colleagues
  • Culture – An office that chastises mistakes instead of learning from them
  • Roles – Not having a full understanding of the job and its requirements

The first step to solving an issue is admitting there is one and by recognising stress in the workplace you can start to build a healthier working environment.

Listen

While some may feel intimidated by their seniors, it’s a manager’s job to ensure they’re approachable by any member of their team who has a problem. Stress becomes less of an issue if an employee knows they have someone who will take their concerns seriously.

Maintaining an open door policy can allow teams to find solutions to their work problems with aid from management, without the fear that their boss will conclude that they can’t handle the job.

One of the most important things a company can do for their employees is provide an open atmosphere that promotes mental comfort and wellbeing by allowing issues such as stress to be discussed.

One Reddit user commented on the openness can help within the workplace:

I am very open with my bosses and will let them know when I am overly stressed out and what I plan on doing about it. They’ve always been very understanding and it has never become an issue. I think keeping that communication open is extremely important in keeping everyone comfortable and healthy.

With employees looking to their seniors for work guidance, those in management roles are well-placed to help identify and manage stress throughout the company.

Promote a positive team environment

A team that doesn’t support one another can be prone to problems which will greatly lower the overall productivity. Ensuring various teams communicate well and are ready to support one another can be a strong step in eliminating problems before they arise. Employees that know they can turn to and rely on colleagues will be able to seek help during potentially stressful times.

How can office culture help mental health?

While employers all want their employees to work hard, it’s also important to establish a culture which allows work to be managed efficiently. Workers who have to take their workloads home with them on the weekends could see their mental health worsen if they begin to accept that as normality.

PricewaterhouseCoopers for example, encourage their employees to avoid their work emails outside of office hours and reportedly try to ensure each staff member takes all of their allotted annual leave.

Millennials are said to be more driven by the idea of maintaining a work-life balance than achieving financial security. As they slowly become the world’s prominent workforce, employers need to work to promote a company culture that works to develop healthy balances between work and life. Focusing on ways to tackle workplace stress could be the key to retaining top talent.