April is Stress Awareness Month

April is Stress Awareness Month, flagged every year since April 1992 with its purpose for gaining our attention and increasing our consciousness of the impact of stress for us in life personally, and for other people’s lives who are around us that we care for and love.

Putting it into context, Deloitte UK Mental Health Report 2022 states:

  • £56 billion mental health costs to UK employers each year; and has increased
  • 25% each year since 2019

In this article I want to focus on those in the roles of LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT, and the impact and support you can have on the stress levels of those people you manage, which then extends into peoples’ families and the community.

  • The chances are you know someone who has suffered already, maybe you?

There is no discrimination in who may be affected; it could be you; it me, or someone very close to you at home, or at work , a member of your team? Back in 2007 in articles and training I used to recite the published statistic that:

“1 in 4 people will have at some time in their life a mental health challenge with stress being a major contributing factor”

Google still shows same stats – and I beg to differ based on my work with others. I suppose it depends on how you define ‘a mental health challenge’ and if the statistic is based on a recorded, and with required medical intervention?

So what is STRESS?

  • One definition is that “it is a disturbance created within you by your response to a situation or activity, it could be internal or external; caused by an abnormal demand on your ability and or capacity to adapt.”
  • HSE definition – One I have worked with for years is “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed upon them.”

Not everyone under stress will seek support and become a statistic– I do know I work with an awful lot of people who show effects of being mentally / emotionally stressed, and the cause being very diverse over a great many life topic areas.

Learning to cope with our stress and finding healthy ways to deal with these situations can go a long way in living a healthy and positive life for both you and those around you. I will write an article later in the month focussed on this.

In this article I want to focus on those in LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT roles and the impact and support with stress levels regarding those people you manage.

For all sorts of reasons, the workplace is a hot bed for stress. It is worth remembering that stress is not an illness, it is a state. The skill is to be aware and manage the stress situation in us, and ideally influence others and rebalance our energies. That is where, and why my passion for wellness in the workplace and life-coaching was birthed some 25 years ago..

It may seem obvious – but – it really cannot be over-emphasised the impact that the behaviours of leaders and managers in business have on the people they are responsible for in the workplace.

This can be a wonderful positive impact, or too frequently as I have witnessed as people have shared with me in coaching situations, a negative impact, leading to much stress, unhappiness, and potentially ill-health.

Stress over long periods of time compromises the immune system leading to ill-health and disease. Minimising stress effect and the impacts where we can, is the goal.

Here are a few statistics from year 2022 to consider. (Links at end of article to Reports.)

Deloitte UK Mental Health Report 2022

  • £56 billion mental health costs to UK employers each year; and has increased
  • 25% each year since 2019
  • 50% of employees have experienced at least one characteristic of burn out due to job demands and expectations increasing: lack of social interaction and lack of boundaries between work and home life.

CIPD Good Work Index 2022

  • 55% of the respondents to Survey who experienced depression in last 12 months said work had contributed, with only 36% discussing with their manager / employer just over a quarter of workers (26%) say they struggle in their personal time because of work issues
  • Almost half of workers (46%) say they have worked in recent months despite not feeling physically or mentally well enough to perform their duties.

We are never going to remove all elements that can cause stress. The lives and roles we lead, managing uncertainties and change, the challenges, opportunities and complexities of work and business all have an impact. What is advisable is to become better equipped in recognising the early warning signs of stress in us and in others and take positive corrective steps and build psychological resilience.

Managers at any level have a HUGE ROLE in influencing the wellness of people at work and are well placed to spot the effects of stress or work-life imbalance in the people they are responsible for. If they are aware of the signs to look out for?

There is a pattern in the business world that if someone is good at doing their job they can be promoted to a supervisory / management position and then are not supported with the very necessary knowledge, understanding and skills that would enable them to do the best job they can. I’ve worked with hundreds of them.

How well these managers can achieve results through others, communicate, engage, provide direction and support to their people and teams is critical to both the success of the business, and in looking after the employee.

Best performance, reduced presenteeism (annual cost approx £28 billion for employers), and absenteeism (approx £6 billion) as well as reducing the stressful impact they can unknowingly create, and simultaneously influencing the positive wellness of their people can be achieved.

Sadly, much of the negative impact that can be caused by a manager with an employee, is often outside the awareness of the manager involved. This can also include staff turnover (approx £22 billion) resulting in often unnecessarily losing good people from organisations where the individual thought there was no alternative to leaving their job.

Leaders and Managers simply doing their best job by performing effectively in their role, doing what a good leader and manager ‘should do’ creates such positive impact, and is created naturally in day-to-day interactions within their areas of responsibility.

In my opinion this OUTWEIGHS in importance many of the ‘nice to have’ things an organisation may provide. Any organisation looking to develop their wellbeing / wellness at work approaches must have managers who are trained and developed to get the best from, and in, the people resource.

An organisation can do much to support Managers by having policies, procedures and processes that underpin their wellness practices, and ensuring that their managers have the knowledge, understanding, skills and behaviours to carry these out effectively.

Have all the nice things along with the necessary provided as part of an employee assistance programme, health and safety and wellbeing strategy; lovely facilities, fresh fruit, water access, prizes, and bonus systems, get togethers, gyms, private insurance, and other things, they all have a very valuable place.

Of course, wellness in the workplace is not solely down to leaders and managers to safeguard and positively influence an employee’s wellness. Taking care of ourselves, making our own life choices, and realising the consequences if we do not choose wisely by taking responsibility for our own health and wellness is critical. CAUSE AND EFFECT.

Workplace wellness approaches also include education. It is an ideal platform to educate many people on the topic and signpost to places for further support where people can make informed choices to turn to if desired.

My next article will be about what we as individuals can do ourselves by having our own Personal Wellness Plan. One size doesn’t fit all – What would work for YOU?



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