Ahead of Stress Awareness Day (4 November), Cheryl Lythgoe, Matron at Benenden Health, shares her tips for employers on how to support employees coping with stress as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our lives.
Everyday life feels different right now, and that’s understandably causing a lot of people to feel more stressed.
A recent Benenden Health report found that almost half of UK employees (46%) have experienced their job become more stressful in the past two years and as many as four in ten (38%) haven’t felt supported by their employer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While higher levels of stress at work and at home are not unexpected at this time, there is an opportunity for employers to take action and help their team through this challenging period.
1. Encourage a positive mindset
It is easy to slip into negative thinking when work is stressful and even these small problems could make employees feel more anxious. As an employer, it is important that you help your staff to develop a positive mindset and do what you can to help boost their morale.
One thing you could suggest is that everyone writes a list at the end of each day of all the things that went well or things they found enjoyable, and to share these things in team catch ups. This is not only a good team-building exercise, but it also encourages everyone to take a moment to consider things for which they are grateful that they may have forgotten.
2. Introduce a cuppa break
While working from home it can be easy for employees to skip proper breaks throughout the day, but this could be contributing to additional stress. To prevent this, introduce a ‘cuppa break’ for employees each day to give everyone a chance to take short screen break. Studies have found that something as simple as having a cup of tea can lower your stress level.
Aside from the comforting effects of a strong, hot brew, it has been found people who drank black tea four times a day for six weeks had less of the stress hormone cortisol in their bodies. They were able to destress twice as quickly as a control group given a placebo. This is a simple act we can all can do in the current situation to help manage stress during the working day.
3. Encourage a good night’s sleep
It has been found that stress is one of the most common causes of sleep disruption and it is normal to experience occasionally disrupted sleep while under pressure. Disrupted sleep is particularly important right now when the lines between work and home are so blurred.
While it is easy to check emails at night if you’re working from home full-time, encouraging employees not to do so can have a positive impact overall. Work-life balance has never been more important and taking time to switch-off does help when it comes to reducing stress. To avoid this, you could encourage your team to remove their work emails from their mobile phone for the time being – especially on weekends – to make sure they take the time to relax and recharge!
4. Introduce employee ‘me time’
Encourage employees to take some time for themselves by blocking out time in the diary for the team to do something that will benefit their mental wellbeing and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
This time could be used for anything from completing a sudoku, watching an episode of their favourite Netflix series or heading out for some fresh air. By encouraging employees to take this time out of their day for something that makes them feel good, it is more likely they will feel more productive when they are working.
5. Devote time to help others
When individuals feel down, it can help to do some good. Helping people who are often in situations worse than yours will help you put your problems into perspective. The more that you give, the happier and more resilient you may feel.
One way that you could offer your team support is by devoting time in the diary for them to help others – whether that be helping a vulnerable neighbour with groceries or talking to another colleague who may be struggling.
In this instance, it may be good to lead by example and introduce a ‘door is open’ policy and encourage your team to come to you if they would like a chat. Often, employees may feel that they can’t bother their boss, so make sure that they know when you’re around and available if they need you.
6. Get the team outdoors
The idea that being active is good for us is hardly news. Keeping fit protects us against a whole raft of diseases, but did you know it also helps our mental wellbeing?
If your team are struggling or an individual is having a particularly stressful period, encourage them to get outside on their lunch break. Something as simple as a walk can help ease mild depression and minimise anxiety. Physical activity causes chemical changes in the body which help bolster positive feelings.
By supporting employees through this challenging period, the positive impact on wellbeing, productivity and loyalty to a business can be priceless.
To find out more about how you can help employees manage their mental wellbeing during the pandemic, Benenden Health has developed a dedicated online hub offering insight and tips, which can be found at: https://www.benenden.co.uk/coronavirus.
Benenden Health enables businesses to offer affordable, high quality, private healthcare to every employee. This includes round the clock care such as 24/7 GP and Mental Health helplines, plus speedy access to services such as physiotherapy and medical treatment so employees can have peace of mind that they can ask for help whenever they need it. As a not-for-profit organisation, Benenden Health offers support to its 800,000+ members at the same affordable cost of just £11.50 per employee, per month.