International Stress Awareness Week: 5 ways L&D can reduce stress at work
Stress is ubiquitous in the modern world. Too much stress affects our mood, body, and our relationships. It can make us feel anxious and irritable, and even lower our self-esteem. In worse cases, it can lead to excessive drinking and smoking, and even depression and suicidal thoughts.
You may not be surprised to learn that one of the most common forms of stress is work-related stress, with 79% of UK adults saying they frequently feel it.
Stress at work is often unavoidable. In fact, it’s likely that you perceive a certain amount of stress to be acceptable, motivating or even healthy. Whilst that is largely true, the responsibility of employers is to ensure that levels of stress do not become unmanageable.
In recognition of International Stress Awareness Week (7th-11th November), we’re going to share our top tips for how Learning & Development (L&D) can help to beat stress at work.
What are the causes of stress at work?
Before we tackle how L&D can reduce stress at work, we need to understand where stress at work comes from. These are the five main causes:
Excessive amounts of work and unrealistic deadlines make people feel rushed, under pressure and overwhelmed. There are only so many hours in the day!
Work that isn’t engaging or challenging
No one wants an unmanageable workload, however equally, nobody wants to go to work and feel they’re not being challenged enough either. Work that isn’t engaging or challenging causes stress; just think of all your potential going to waste!
You won’t be surprised to learn that finance is also one of the biggest stresses in people’s lives. Now more than ever financial pressure is causing huge distress to many individuals, couples, and families across the UK.
Few opportunities for growth or advancement
Most employees are ambitious for their future careers. If they feel like there’s no room for progression, it’s only a matter of time before feelings of stagnation lead to stress and low morale.
Lack of support
If your job is challenging you and you aren’t getting the support you need, it’s a recipe for both stress and poor performance.
So, how can L&D help to reduce work-related stress?
Equipping learners to do their job makes their work less stressful
Feeling unsure of how to do your job properly is incredibly stressful. In fact, according to the UK Government, it’s one of the key drivers of workplace stress. It undermines your confidence and leaves you feeling like you don’t belong.
This means one of the best solutions to workplace stress is to help learners grow in confidence and ability, which is precisely what L&D exists to do!
For employees, continued professional development (CPD) and upskilling help people succeed in their roles. CPD can take its form in technical (hard skills), enabling employees to learn more industry-specific knowledge and progress in their role, and equally softer business skills to help with teamworking, relationships, resilience, managing conflict, etc.
A focus on developing both hard and soft skills reassures employees about their future employability, which is critical when people are under financial pressure. In turn, this helps to avoid stress and burnout.
Create a culture of knowledge-sharing and support
One of the most effective stress busters is incredibly simple: share the problem causing you stress. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved.
When you share a problem with others they can give you advice, share the load or even just be there to listen. A supportive, listening ear is a simple but incredibly effective way to allow colleagues to offload a burden, exhale and feel better.
To reduce workplace stress, employers need to enable collaboration and facilitate a community of knowledge-sharing. One way to do this is to promote mentorship at work. Mentoring has been proven to improve both the mentees’ and mentors’ emotional health. When a close trusting relationship is established, both the mentor and mentee feel as if they are being valued and more connected to their work and workplace.
Mental health skills and awareness training
Prevention is always better than cure so it’s useful for all employees to have good resilience skills and knowledge about adopting healthy habits, such as:
Employees also greatly benefit from mental health awareness education to understand what good mental health looks like and what happens when our mental health is less than great.
With the current pressures of the cost-of-living crisis, prioritising our financial wellbeing is essential for our overall mental wellbeing. Our mental health first aid accredited course equips you with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to identify the signs of workplace mental health issues and to help get your employees the support they need.
Training can provide a safe and supportive environment for people to share their own thoughts and experiences surrounding mental health, leaving them better equipped to deal with their own mental health issues and support colleagues and the wider community with the same problems.
Set the tone from the top
Research suggests that your manager’s management style has a huge bearing on your mental health at work. Managers need to lead by example; if they’re working themselves into the ground and getting stressed, everyone’s wellbeing will suffer.
Training managers to manage effectively and know how to build positive relationships with their reports is critical. The top required interpersonal skills for a manager include:
Despite the conversation around supporting mental health and wellbeing at work continuing to ripple, many managers are still not confident in knowing what to do to help a team member who is struggling.
L&D programmes should be targeted towards equipping managers to know the steps they can take to facilitate conversation and make them approachable for their employees. The difference between an employee having a bad day, feeling stressed or being depressed are subtle and nuanced.
Remember that L&D doesn’t end at work
Whether it’s learning a language, taking up an instrument or playing a team sport, making time for our hobbies is important. Doing things we enjoy makes us feel happier, more satisfied with life and they are a great stress reliever.
Whilst you may think that what your employees do in their leisure time isn’t your concern, there are a few things you can do to encourage them and in turn, bring about a brighter workplace culture.
Consider setting up a book club, weekly bake-off, or regular sports day to allow employees to bring their hobbies into the workplace. Most importantly, be sure you’re promoting a good work/life balance. Actively encourage your teams to close their laptops and not check in after their core hours - everyone needs some me time at the end of the day!
Aiming to reduce work-related stress for your employees will lead to improved performance and productivity, a happier workplace environment, and generally a more successful business.
It may not feel as though L&D initiatives can have as direct an impact on employee wellbeing as other departments, but a solid L&D programme will undoubtedly improve employee engagement and in turn, impact positively on their wellbeing.
Keen to find out more about how you can support your colleagues with stress, mental health, and wellbeing?
Click here to find out more and enquire about a bespoke training package for your organisation.
Our most popular health and wellbeing courses include:
Dealing with stress
Looking after yourself and others
Mastering personal resilience