Stress is a state of mental health which affects all of us at some point during our lives, and specifically, our working life. It is our body’s way of responding to pressure from the occurrences in our lives.
When the human body feels stress, it goes into fight or flight mode and produces a stress hormone – cortisol. Often, this response is good and can help people through a difficult event, such as running a marathon.
However, when the body reacts badly to stress, mental and physical health can suffer. Pressure is good in small quantities, helping employees keep motivated and be productive. Opposingly, larger amounts of pressure can lead to feelings of being incapable of completing tasks.
In 2016/17 there were 12.5 million working days lost due to work related stress, depression or anxiety in the UK alone. This reflects that mental health is a real issue which should not be ignored.
A manager and the HR team should keep an eye on their employees, taking into account their workload and how well they are performing. Regular one on one sessions between a manager and an employee are a time to express any dissatisfactions or anxieties, and the employee should feel comfortable with sharing any issues.
Indicators of stress include: a change in an employees’ usual behaviour, a change in their appearance, a lack of concentration and regular absenteeism.
Stress is just as important as physical health, therefore, should be treated in the same way an illness is dealt with. It is advisable that a manager lets the employee know that they are concerned for their health.
Professional advice is always recommended. If there are any suspected issues, recommending the employee to talk to their GP or a therapist can be really helpful. There are many free online tools which include therapy sessions, for other mental illnesses, such as depression.
Mind is a charity aimed towards coping with mental health. Their website is an informative place for advice and methods of coping with stress. Visit https://www.mind.org.uk/ for more information.