3 Strategies for Managing Stress in the Workplace

Megan Thompson · April 6, 2021

strategies for managing stress in the workplaceIf we’ve learnt anything during the last year, it’s that strategies for managing stress in the workplace are more important than ever. It’s likely that we’ll be facing some form of hybrid work as the pandemic ends with employees feeling a mixture of excitement, anxiety and stress as they return to work.

So, with employees working back in the office, some at home, and some on-site what strategies for managing stress in the workplace are best? You’ll need long-term, flexible solutions that are available for all your people – no matter where they are.

What is stress?

The HSE definition of stress is ‘the adverse reaction a person has to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed upon them’. It is particularly important to note the difference between pressure and stress. HSE points out that pressure can be necessary to motivate us and enable us to perform at our best, whereas stress doesn’t allow us to recover, and it affects us in different ways at different times. It is often the result of a combination of factors in our personal and working lives.

While stress is not an illness in itself, the psychological impact can lead to conditions such as anxiety and depression. Furthermore, this can manifest into physical conditions, such as skin conditions, stomach pains, and heart disease.

Therefore, it is crucial that employers offer suitable strategies for managing stress in the workplace for their workforce. But before one can successfully manage stress, it is vital that one can identify its cause.

What causes stress in the workplace?

Failure to meet basic needs such as forming a relationship and connection to our colleagues, or not accessing the adequate resources and knowledge to do our jobs well can cause a significant amount of stress. At WeThrive, we’ve identified 4 key areas:

  1. Cognitive
  2. Capability
  3. Connection
  4. Confidence

Our 4C Model provides 16 key stressors that affect employees, and can cause stress and anxiety in the workplace. For example, areas such as feelings of insecurity at work, or a lack of headspace can knock one’s confidence greatly.

Of course, one’s personal life outside of work can also affect stress in the workplace, too. Financial problems, illness, and unexpected change can also lead to a requirement for strategies for managing stress in the workplace.

However, the main cause of stress and anxiety during the last year can easily be put down to the impact of Covid-19.

What strategies for managing stress in the workplace still meet the needs of hybrid employees?

1. Track employee workloads. Busy ≠ productive.

strategies for managing stress in the workplaceDuring the last year employees have had to adapt. Taking on furloughed employees’ workloads, supporting other teams and working in new environments has introduced a great amount of change and pressure.

For example, last May one of our client’s employees stated “at the moment we are doing the work of a full team with only a few team members. It is unbelievably stressful.”

Therefore, it is critical that managers have a clear and realistic understanding of the workloads they put on their employees. The pandemic has been stressful enough in people’s personal lives without the expectation that employees must take on additional and unachievable workloads.

Just because your people appear busy, does not mean they are being productive. Stress causes productivity to falter, as people are unable to fully concentrate and apply themselves to their work. There is far greater room for errors, mistakes and accidents when your people are distracted and worried about rushing on to their next task.

If your people are swamped with additional work make it clear what needs to be prioritised, offer to jump in and help, or give them the tools and resources they need to effectively complete their workload.

When you have a team meeting one of the great strategies for managing stress in the workplace is to share your own issues with clearing your head & creating time to think at team meetings. Advocating for mental health issues at a management level is powerful in driving change and helping employees understand the importance of managing stress.

2. Provide social support and opportunities for employee interaction

Many of us haven’t seen our colleagues face-to-face in over a year. For employees who have had interactions with their colleagues they’ve been plagued with anxieties and limitations about social distancing and masks in the workplace.

Prior to lockdown, work was a place where people made friends, socialised and had day-to-day conversations that made us feel part of a wider community. Without these key interactions employees can lose trust in their colleagues and their company.

One of the best strategies for managing stress in the workplace when it comes to addressing social interactions is to open up opportunities for employees to collaborate on projects, and meet and relax without needing to discuss work.

Create some opportunities for your people to interact, such as a virtual games night or a Zoom coffee morning. For hybrid teams that may have 60% of their people in the office and 40% at home you should ensure you have meeting rooms enabled for video conferencing. Opening up spaces for in-office collaboration also creates a more inviting environment for hybrid teams.

Making these adjustments to ensure a smoother return to work and socialising will ensure your strategies for managing stress in the workplace are effective.

strategies for managing stress in the workplace

3. Career development

Without opportunities for growth, advancement or work that challenges us we can become stressed, complacent and unhappy. Not only is this beneficial for your organisation as a whole, by cultivating internal talent, improving retention rates and productivity, but it is also one of the great strategies for managing stress in the workplace.

Opportunities to develop themselves professionally and expand their knowledge and skills will give your people achievable goals to work towards. Balanced with support from management and increased social interactions at work this will both improve company culture and reduce stress in your teams.

Make it clear to your people that you want to support their career development and growth within the organisation. Not everyone will be keen to commit immediately, but with long-term support and the ability to build a skill-set your people will feel more adept to handle their work.

Identifying stress in the workplace

A lot of the time your people may not know how to identify specifically where their stress is coming from. If your people are unsure and you don’t have a high level of clarity it’s always a good idea to start by running an employee experience survey.

WeThrive’s free stress risk assessment uses our 4C Model to analyse exactly where your people are struggling, and also pinpoint why. Not only will WeThrive identify your people’s stressors, but it will also offer strategies for managing stress in the workplace in the form of individual action plans.

In just 7 days you’ll get back your people’s results and can start taking steps to managing stress at work.

About WeThrive

Employee Engagement, Evolved

WeThrive is the agile employee engagement platform that uncovers how your people truly feel, enabling managers to create highly effective teams, increase employee retention and employee wellbeing and deliver better business results.