Posted on 01/04/22

Stress Awareness Month has been recognised every April since 1992 and this year’s theme is community in acknowledgement of the social isolation and loneliness from the Covid pandemic.

With higher numbers of us experiencing symptoms of stress over the last couple of years, this pressure can transfer into our jobs so it’s important for businesses to know how to recognise and manage stress in the workplace.

The rate of self-reported work-related stress, depression or anxiety was already showing signs of increasing prior to the pandemic, but this Labour Force Survey from the HSE shows the sharp rise which has taken place in recent years.

In support of Stress Awareness Month, the British Safety Council are offering free access to two of their most requested online courses which cover stress awareness and managing stress within your team.

Why is community so important for mental wellbeing?

Being part of a community can give us a sense of connection to other people, helping us to feel accepted and supported. Laughing and chatting with others, especially in a like-minded community, can also distract us temporarily from our own worries.

Friends, family, hobbies, and the neighbourhood we live can all provide a sense of community and belonging. However, it comes as no surprise to us that many of our tenants have also made comments about feeling part of a community at The Business Village.

Running a business can often be lonely and isolating, so we’ve designed a supportive environment at The Business Village which nurtures businesses and gives access to networking meetings, training courses and a bistro which serves as a great informal meeting place.

Managing stress in the workplace

Looking after the health and wellbeing of your employees can result in huge benefits, such as reduced staff turnover and sickness absence. Happy and healthy employees are also more likely to be engaged in the company, leading to increased productivity, and enhancing your reputation as a considerate employer.

There are many factors which can affect stress at work, including job security, working hours, too much work, organisational culture, and interpersonal relationships. Some of the signs to look for in your employees include:

  • Changes in behaviour or mood
  • Changes in the standard of work
  • Reduced interest in work
  • Appearing tired or anxious
  • Increases in sickness absence

This free download managing and reducing workplace stress handbook from Mates in Mind has more information about the signs to look out for, along with actions you can take to support employees who may be struggling with work-related stress.

The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) has a free guide about identifying and addressing the signs of stress at work and Barnsley also has some great (and often free) initiatives to help tackle mental wellbeing in the workplace which we’ll cover below.

Be Well@Work from Barnsley Council

The Be Well@Work programme offers free of charge support for all types of employers to help them look at the health and wellbeing of their employees. The full programme leads to accreditation and a badge which can be used on your website and marketing literature. However, companies can also dip their toe into the programme and simply start with the basics.

The starting point is a free visit to explore workplace health and any issues which the company is experiencing. This can then be followed up with an anonymous employee health and wellbeing survey, which is free of charge and ends by offering the employee further information on a range of health issues.

The Be Well@Work team also provide information and links to webinars, training, and other resources for both managers and staff. Topics include the different types of mental health, stress awareness and the effect of menopause on work.

Some of the benefits of going through the Be Well@Work programme include:

  • An enhanced reputation as a caring employer who looks after staff
  • Understanding more about what your staff may need
  • Support, information, and tips to improve mental wellbeing

 

To discuss the Be Well@Work award for your business, contact Julia Sykes, the Barnsley Workplace Health Advisor:

Email: juliasykes@barnsley.gov.uk

Phone: 01226 772 608

Barnsley Council also has this handy summary of workplace health resources, which includes policy templates and guidelines.

Barnsley Future Proof Workforce programme

The Future Proof Workforce programme is funded by Barnsley Council and has been introduced as a direct result of the Covid pandemic to support businesses facing new challenges affecting workforce productivity.

The programme is free of charge and provides a diagnostic assessment of the key issues affecting your workforce. Following that, you’ll have your own action plan with priorities for further work and up to five days support in one or more of the following areas:

  • Organisational human resources, including flexible working, communication, and recruitment
  • Leadership and management, including coaching, management training and managing poor performance
  • Workforce mapping, including people management and internal processes
  • Workforce development and culture, including organisational values, team building and engagement
  • Employee mental health, including support for organisational health and wellbeing, mental health first aid training and mental health awareness

Further details can be found on the Enterprising Barnsley website:

How businesses can support their employees

In addition to the support available for employers working to improve mental health and wellbeing at work, there are also many options for employees themselves to access free support and counselling.

Employees do not have to go through their employer to access support, so general signposting for all employees to these services can be a huge reassurance for individuals wanting help but worried about their employer finding out.

Creating a culture where mental health, stress and wellbeing are openly discussed can also be helpful. Some employers may wish to go a step further and offer free massages to employees once a month to reduce stress, or give a self-care / mindfulness gift like the Time to Rest Gift Box from Barnsley based Wickham & Taylor Ltd.

Remploy work mental health support service

Free confidential service for up to nine months for employees with depression, anxiety, stress, or other mental health issues affecting their work

https://www.remploy.co.uk/employers/mental-health-and-wellbeing/workplace-mental-health-support-service-employers/

Able Futures

Advice and guidance from a mental health specialist for up to nine months for employees aged 16 or over

https://able-futures.co.uk/individuals

Barnsley IPAT (improving access to psychological therapies)

Counselling support which can be accessed via self-referral

https://www.barnsley.gov.uk/services/adult-health-and-social-care/looking-after-your-health/mental-health-services/

NHS Working Win

Free support service to help people find and stay in employment, including a mental health community with support and resources

https://www.livewellbarnsley.co.uk/directory/nhs-working-win/

Other out of hours and local support in Barnsley

Details of local support and organisations available in an emergency

https://www.barnsley.gov.uk/services/adult-health-and-social-care/looking-after-your-health/mental-health-services/

The Stress Management Society

Information and support about stress, including their 30 day challenge for Stress Awareness Month

https://www.stress.org.uk/30daychallenge/

 

Final thoughts

Good mental health at work and good management go hand in hand. Workplaces with high levels of mental wellbeing are generally happier environments and more productive. By introducing a culture where the management team lead by example and stress is openly discussed, you can quickly identify problems and offer support.

Barnsley businesses can access lots of free wellbeing support and signposting to help them recognise and manage stress in the workplace. The Barnsley Workplace Health Advisor, Julia Sykes, recommends that SMEs start small with the staff survey, then look at any issues arising from that.

Importantly, companies should ensure their employees are aware that free 1:1 counselling for workplace stress is available anonymously.