Stress Awareness

How to Promote Stress Awareness Month at Work

5 min read
Lynsey May Sutherland
Lynsey Sutherland

We’re all familiar with stress, but that doesn’t mean we’re paying it as much attention as we should be. 

Stress Awareness Month is the perfect opportunity to take a step back and look at stress levels – at both an individual and company-wide level.

Find out more about why it’s so important and what you can do to help your employees manage stress.

What is Stress Awareness Month?

Since 1992, Stress Awareness Month has been a public campaign that aims to raise awareness of the causes and cures for stress in the modern day. 

The National Institutes of Health say that managing stress is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle and suggests that recognising what stress and anxiety look like and how to build resilience is critical for wellbeing. 

Taking time in April (and the months beyond) to think about how well you are promoting stress management is a great way to check in on your policies and find new ways to support mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. 

Why is stress management so important at work?

As the Stress Management Society says, physical and mental health are closely intertwined, and stress is a huge public health challenge. While not all stress is bad, the negative impacts of ignoring feelings of stress, overwhelm or employee burnout can have negative consequences on your workforce.

Job stress makes employees more prone to error, poor work performance, conflict in the workplace and may even result in high rates of turnover, disengagement and absenteeism if it goes unaddressed.

In a world where wellbeing has become almost cliché, it is pretty easy to misunderstand the importance of health and wellbeing at work. Ever since the pandemic hit, our awareness of creating a culture of wellbeing in the workplace has grown – yet many employers struggle with it. A healthy work environment and prioritising wellbeing is beneficial for organisation and employees. 

Can stress be useful?

It’s true that not all stress is bad stress. In fact, low levels can sometimes be a great motivator. The trick is recognising when a positive feeling tips into a negative one. The good type of stress, also known as eustress, feels similar but happens when everything is positive. 

For example, when someone gets a promotion, they may feel all the tell-tale signs of stress, but it’s centred around their excitement rather than anxiety. However, extended periods of stress can strain the body and mind, so it’s always worth being aware of. 

How can I promote stress awareness in the workplace?

Be there for your staff when it matters most

Building up trust and learning how to be an empathetic leader means that when your employees are stressed or struggling, they are more likely to turn to you or feel able to accept your help. Especially when big or scary things are happening to them outside of work and in it. 

Check in if you notice an employee is underperforming or not acting like themselves. Let them know it’s just a casual chat beforehand to remove the extra worry and listen closely to what they say. 

Help prioritise workloads

Sometimes, the to-do list can become overwhelming. If your employees are finding it hard to meet their targets, but the workload seems reasonable, stress may be a big factor. Sitting down and going through their workload with them to determine which items are most important can give back the feeling of control. It also lets you pinpoint any times when they have too much on their plate!

It may be that someone needs a bit more leeway with deadlines or help to complete projects – and that practical support and your reassurance can make a big difference.

Encourage time off and opportunities for rest

People need to rest and refresh, even if they don’t always recognise it for themselves. When someone is very stressed, they may start to think that they can’t afford to take time off for a holiday – and that’s exactly when they need a break the most. 

Encourage your team to make the most of their annual leave and ask them frequently about their plans. The same goes for those little rest breaks throughout the day. Chatting with colleagues or taking a lunch break walk can help the mind reset. 

Promote work-life balance

We’re all familiar with the idea of a healthy work-life balance, but it can be harder for people to implement than you might realise. Help combat this by promoting your support of flexible working and a people-first management method. 

This can help employees feel empowered to take time off or arrange their working hours around their out-of-work commitments. The ability to be flexible and prioritise important life moments is great for helping to lower stress levels and promotes the kind of self-management that can help boost performance. 

Build a culture of wellbeing 

Creating a culture where employees are encouraged to look after themselves can be incredibly powerful. 

Work is a huge part of life employees want to know they can be honest about their experiences and rely on their leaders for support. Building a culture of wellbeing can help reduce stress and improve mental health overall. 

Of course, we should be looking out for stress and how it might impact our teams all year round, but Stress Awareness Month is a great opportunity to shine a spotlight on your practices. There’s also a Stress Awareness Week and A Stress Awareness Day at the start of November – pop it in the diary and continue supporting your team all year round! 

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