This year’s National Stress Awareness Day on November 2nd, focuses on stress in the workplace. The day is organised by ISMA (International Stress Management Association) and aims to highlight the case for keeping stress management on the corporate agenda.
Stress gets some pretty bad press but if we were unable to experience stress at all, then sometimes we could be in grave danger. Stress is nature’s way of telling us that something’s wrong and we need to do something about it. It is a healthy reaction that’s meant to be uncomfortable.
We all need a certain amount of pressure to function well, as pressure helps people to reach their peak efficiency. Research shows that pressure can increase our energy and drive to meet deadlines and achieve targets. However, where do we draw the line? Prolonged, intense pressure can lead to chronic stress which negatively impacts our physical and psychological health.
Stress at work continues to be a significant cause of sickness absence in the UK. According to the Health and Safety Executive 2015 report on sickness absence, stress accounted for 35% of work related health problems and 43% of days lost to sickness. That translates to a staggering 10 million working days which cost the UK £6.6 billion in 2014.
The financial cost of stress related illness is clearly one which will concern any organisation but are there other factors that employers should also be concerned about? Well, yes there are. Prolonged and excessive pressure on employees is more likely to result in conflict and aggression amongst staff, poor productivity, poor communication, mistakes and injuries and can even affect customer relationships when staff who deal with clients are suffering from stress.
Whatever the root causes, and that’s for the organisation to investigate; more employers are recognizing that now is the time for action. Workers who are stressed today can be off work on long term sickness tomorrow.
Prior to starting my complementary therapy business I worked in marketing for more years than I’d care to mention. Marketing can be a very high pressurised environment to work in and when my company started bring in changes one after the other, the pressure began to affect my health, but I carried on. After 12 months of intense pressure it eventually hit me and for the first time in 30 years I was off work for several months. Not only was this a difficult time for me, it caused problems for the company too. My workload was extremely heavy and suddenly there was no-one to do it; time and resources were required to deal with the problem and extra help had to be brought in.
As statistics show my case is not unusual, so how can organisations reduce the risks stress and anxiety bring, not only to employees but also to the organisation itself?
I don’t claim to be an expert in tackling work related stress in an organisation, that requires a lot of work by the organisation themselves but I do know what helps people cope and what reduces their symptoms. My main area of specialism is helping people to manage stress and anxiety. I do this through a programme of relaxation therapies, nutrition and lifestyle advice. This not only helps people to relax and sleep better it gives them the necessary tools to manage their symptoms when they arise and so stay in control of their stress and anxiety rather than it taking over their life.
As we all know prevention is always better than cure. I firmly believe that looking after people’s mental well-being is crucial if sickness absence is to see significant falls in the coming years. It makes sound business sense and as organisations continue to face challenging times they can ill afford to have their greatest asset performing badly or worse still taking long absences due to sickness.
Suitable Treatments in the workplace
A full body massage is not feasible in the workplace. Treatments should be short and preferably allow you to keep your clothes on! The most effective treatments for treating stress and anxiety are Reflexology, Indian Head Massage and Facial Acupressure. A therapeutic session can be done in as little as 20 minutes and all can be done without removing clothing.
Employees will gain the greatest benefits from having a dedicated area for treatments but a quiet room that is not often used can also be set up to give treatments.
It sounds obvious but do check that any therapist who comes to your premises is fully qualified with the appropriate awarding organisation, that they are insured to practise and I would not recommend using anyone who isn’t registered with the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) which is accredited with the Government’s Professional Standards Authority.
So, should complementary therapy form part of your organisation’s well-being policy? Whilst I firmly believe it is an excellent tool to have in the stress busting box, I’m not going to pretend that complementary therapy alone is going to solve your stress related sickness absence. But it’s worth considering it as a valuable part of your health and wellbeing policy – healthy mind plus healthy body equals healthy workforce. A cliché maybe, but clichés are usually true.
- Complementary and alternative treatments are health-related treatments which are not part of mainstream medical care. They are thought to increase wellbeing, aid relaxation and promote good mental health.
- You can use complementary and alternative treatments for different mental health needs.
- The effectiveness of complementary and alternative treatments is not well researched.
- Not all complementary and alternative therapies are regulated. It is important to make sure the practitioner is qualified.
NOT USED ABOVE
poor productivity and tense working relationships are also cited as indicators of stress in the workplace.
The average number of days lost for each employee taking sick leave as a result of stress is 23 days,These figures cost businesses an average of £600 forevery single one of their employees, rising to £889 in the health sector. 10 million days lost to stress.
I have first hand experience of the impact workplace stress can have on your body and your mind. In my previous profession as a Marketing Manager running a very busy, under staffed team I was constantly firefighting to meet unrealistic deadlines and manage the ever increasing workload as the organisation acquired new companies but refused to provide any more resource to the marketing function. As the team came under more and more pressure, mistakes started to appear and there was little sympathy from the management as they too were under increasing pressure to justify their position. After working for 12 months at this level I eventually cracked and my GP said I needed time out or I was going to be no use to anyone. I found the diagnosis hard to accept. I had always considered myself as someone who thrived on pressure and couldn’t help feel that maybe I simply “wasn’t up to the job.” This in itself put me under further self-imposed pressure as I fought to prove to everyone (and no doubt myself) that I could take it. I couldn’t.
Support from the organisation was virtually non-existant, the HR Manager had her hands tied, so I was on my own. I was fortunate enough to get outstanding help from an NHS Occupational Therapist and this was fundamental in my road to recovery. But to get back to the strong independent woman I was there was still more work to do. Having time to just stop, breathe slowly and calmly and relax, was something I believed was essential to give me the space to simply stop thinking, stop over thinking and stop that dreadful feeling of overwhelm which engulfed me every day. I found that space through massage therapy. Booking in a regular session became a vital part of the healing process and not a luxury. It was deeply relaxing, all stressful thoughts disappeared and I finished each session with a greater sense of well-being than I’d had beforehand.
I became convinced that complementary therapy, gentle exercise and good nutrition could provide a treatment plan with long lasting benefits as well as reducing dependence on anti-depressants and so a new career was born. The big question now is can my experience help stressed employees in other organisations by helping to relieve the symptoms before they become so toxic? Well, it appears so, but what about employers? Should complementary therapy form part of their well-being policy? I’m not going to tell you that complementary therapy alone is going to solve all your stress related sickness absence. But I do believe it’s a valuable addition to an organisation’s health and wellbeing policy – healthy mind plus healthy body equals healthy workforce. A cliché maybe, but clichés are usually true.
became convinced that complementary therapy, gentle exercise and good nutrition could provide a treatment plan with long lasting benefits as well as reducing dependence on anti-depressants and so a new career was born. The big question now is can my experience help stressed employees in other organisations by helping to relieve the symptoms before they become so toxic? Well, it appears so, but what about employers?