Tackling workplace stress

Stress is a growing problem in the workplace. A Health and Safety Executive survey found that on average 31 days are lost if an employee takes leave due to stress, anxiety or depression.  One in three of us will suffer depression or anxiety from work in any year, so the potential loss of productivity is huge.

The main factors which cause stress include:

  • a feeling of being not in control, or having a poorly defined role and set of responsibilities
  • a workload which is too high with impossible deadlines, or too low with little challenge
  • poor pay or working conditions
  • difficulty with other people, particularly line managers and team working
  • a sense of being undervalued or taken for granted

Mindfulness training can make a huge difference, both to help managers identify risk factors and signs of stress, and in helping individuals and teams in stressful environments.

The HSE have prepared several useful guides on stress management.  We recommend these guides. However, we feel that this is a rather top-down approach, and that it does not recognise the psychology behind the causes of human stress. Our feeling is that good management practice needs to be complemented by programmes that strengthen individual employee’s resilience. This is where mindfulness is proven to work.

The evidence is now pretty strong that it works – here are a few abstracts of recent research:

McCubbin et al Nov 2014
Research shows positive impact on physical and mental healthwork productivity, and reduction in healthcare utilization [and hence less time off work], of employees in mindfulness programme, up to one year afterwards.

Aikens, K. A.et al 2014
Web-based Mindfulness-based interventions found to combat work stress and burnout. 66 employees in Dow Chemical Company significantly improved their ‘resilience, and physical, emotional, and cognitive vigor, and decreased their perceived stress’. A cost-benefit analysis projected possible cost savings of up to $22,580 per year per employee due to decreased employee burnout.

Fortney, L et al 2013
A program with 30 clinicians offered 14 hours of mindfulness instruction over a three-day weekend, followed by two 2-hour post-training sessions; this led to ‘significant decreases in emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, anxiety, and stress, and significant increases in a sense of personal accomplishment. All of these differences were significant at nine-month follow-up.’

Before any of us start to tackle workplace stress, we need to recognise the signs of stress in ourselves and our employees (before things get out of hand and more difficult to address). Our free tools help identify and give clarity about what’s going wrong, so that something can be done about it.

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