It is generally accepted that a happy worker is a hard worker.
Despite this, there is still a growing impact of stress and poor mental health on businesses, small and large. The impact of COVID has significantly affected workplaces and staff, demonstrating the need to support employees’ mental health and wellbeing more clearly than ever.
Recent ABS data has indicated that depression and anxiety have increased by more than 25% since 2020, with people wanting more assistance to support their mental health. A 2020 Safe Work Australia survey reported 38% of all supervisors / managers and 27% of workers reported feeling mentally unwell, with the majority of these respondents indicating increased stress at work due to COVID as the main contributor.
Current ABS data also indicates that one in five people take medication to alleviate stress and mental health problems, and mental illness costs the national economy around $11 billion annually through absenteeism or sluggish productivity.
Think about what all this might mean for employees’ overall health, work culture, productivity and the company’s bottom line.
Defining the issue
What is workplace stress? The National Safety Council of Australia (NSCA) defines work related stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed on them.”
However, we find that a person’s ability to manage or deal with demands in general (whether in the workplace or their personal life) also significantly impacts on their ability to perform their job, causing them to feel more stressed at work.
How to minimise stress
Stressed workers impact on the individual and the company in a number of ways, including reduced productivity, lower bottom line, increased absenteeism, low morale, health and psychological problems.
It’s important for companies to ensure they are doing all they can to minimise unnecessary stress on a worker by implementing appropriate strategies such as realistic work demands, rest breaks, open communication, employee assistance programs, family-friendly policies and a culture that values the worker.
However, much more can be done.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in USA, recently reviewed a range of studies on workplace stress and created a list of advice, including:
- cultivating a healthy balance between work/family/personal life
- creating a support network of friends as well as co-workers
- developing a relaxed and positive outlook are vital to managing the effects of workplace stress.
Why should an employer take on the issue of workplace stress?
With the added burden of COVID and the increased isolation, uncertainty, financial strain and many other factors impacting employees’ personal lives, workplaces are perfectly positioned to step up and fill these gaps.
The Australian Psychological Society has recently reported that the wait time for a person to be provided an initial appointment with a psychologist is up to 6 months.
With that in mind it becomes obvious that to ensure a mentally healthy workplace, it is in a company’s best interests to offer mental health and wellbeing services to their staff.