Workplace Wellbeing – Managing Stress

In this article, Laura Findlay, from our partners at IHRS, continues to take a look at wellness, using the ‘Eight Dimensions of Wellness’ model.

This article focuses on social wellness – i.e. how we interact with others and build relationships. Developing and maintaining healthy relationships is important in all areas of life, including the workplace. Consider how much time we spend with our colleagues on a daily basis – the relationships we have in work can actually be some of the most significant in our lives. So what does social wellness in the workplace look like?  

This article looks specifically at healthy workplace communication and explores how employers can encourage staff to talk about their mental health and any stressors they encounter. The relationship between work and mental health can be tricky to navigate. How can employers help staff to manage stress and different relationships at work, and what support can they provide?

Many people find going to work is good for their mental health. It can help their mental health by providing a source of income to support themselves and the ones they care for. For example, a sense of identifying who they are. How often are we asked what we do as our jobs and career when meeting a new person or networking? The workplace provides contacts and builds professional relationships with others. It provides a steady routine and structure to an employee's day and allows opportunities to gain achievements, feel proud of oneself, and contribute to others' successes.

Work's negative affect on mental health

Unfortunately, employees might find that work can have a negative impact on their mental health. This could be for a number of reasons, such as high levels of workplace stress and poor relationships with colleagues. The type of work the employee is doing or experiencing stigma and being treated unfairly because of their mental health issues.

One of the biggest hurdles for some employees is being unsure whether to tell their boss and colleagues about their mental health concerns and then worrying about returning to work after a period of poor mental health.

How to approach mental health at work

Whether an employee has a mental health problem or not, employers have a duty of care under health and safety legislation. Employees have the right to work where risks to their health are properly controlled. Furthermore, they must receive protection after returning to work from sickness absence if they have become more vulnerable due to their condition.

How to manage stress at work

Good stress management is important in the workplace. If employees often experience feelings of stress, they might be at risk of developing a mental health problem like depression or anxiety, and stress can also worsen existing problems. Building resilience can help employees adapt to challenging circumstances.

Employees should be encouraged to speak out. Employees do not need to cope with stress alone. Here are some general things an employer can try to support stressed employees:

  • Recognising the signs of stress and the causes is a good place to start.
  • Working out what the employee finds stressful and helpful in the workplace.
  • Once the employer knows what works for an employee, talk to them about it.
  • Encouraging and supporting employees to use different coping techniques as soon as they start to feel the pressure building.
  • Promoting mindfulness i.e. assisting the employee in concentrating on the here and now and avoid ruminating on what might be.

It is also useful to encourage employees to maintain their physical health. This can be in the form of a wellness benefit, including subsidised gym membership.

What can employees and employers do to prevent or reduce stress at work?

If an employee feels stressed because of a particular problem at work, here are some suggestions for managing common stressful situations.



An employee having problems with their workload

·         Offer help; everyone needs a hand from time to time. For example, discuss workloads with the employee. Talk about realistic targets and how you can help to solve problems the employee is having.

·         Balance the employee's time. Occasionally they may have to work longer hours to get something done or meet a deadline but try to give this time back later if you can.

Lack of support

·         Make a ‘Wellness Action Plan’ to map out what causes the employees stress and keeps them well at work. Ensure they are aware of support already on offer, such as employee assistance programmes and buddy systems.

·         Develop a good relationship with any direct reports. Connecting with them can help to build up a network of support and make being at work more enjoyable


Mental health at work

Mental health at work is an extremely complex, personal, and sensitive subject, and it can be a minefield to navigate through. Even on the best days, stress can prevent employees from fully focusing and doing their best work. Too much stress can lead to burnout, disengagement, increased sick days, and strained relationships in the workplace.

In the wake of Covid-19, it's never been more critical for business and HR leaders to address the mental wellbeing of their teams head-on. Mental health has become one of the biggest challenges for employees and employers in 2021 and will continue to be so in the future. As many workers struggle to manage an evolving work dynamic amid a global pandemic, organisations must prioritise mental health to avoid declining productivity and prevent burnout. Having a roadmap for mental health in place will put employers ahead of the game.

If you require support designing and implementing a wellbeing strategy, employee assistance programme, holistic incentives, or general advice on managing work-related employee stress issues. IHRS can work with the financial services industry members to support occupational health and wellbeing meaningfully. We can tailor offerings to your individual needs, aims and return on investment.

For help with wellness in the workplace, contact the IHRS team who would love to hear from you. Email, call 01604 709509 or visit the website.


Episode One of the new IHRS podcast is out now! Follow the link to listen to latest hot topics and regulatory updates:

About the author

Laura is a HR professional with 20 years’ experience with Financial Services, the majority of which has been within insurance. In her role with UKGI Group, Laura provides objective support to firms on employment law and HR issues. She uses her interpersonal skills and knowledge to work with firms to help them develop strong and resilient HR strategies and establish healthy organisational cultures. Laura’s clients receive personalised support with a real can-do approach.

Laura is an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). She holds a Diploma Professional Development Scheme.

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