Whilst no-one has ever said that work was meant to be easy, it seems that the average workplace is becoming a more stressful place to be.
The reasons for workplace stress can of course be down to a huge number of factors; targets to meet, looming deadlines, industry competition, even poor company culture can be a factor. But regardless, it’s becoming increasingly common for employees to feel stressed out and under-pressure in their day-to-day roles.
The trend of increasing workplace stress has coincided with productivity flat-lining towards the back-end of 2018. Whilst workers in the UK are working harder and longer than ever before, it’s clearly taking a toll on their wellbeing; leading to productivity stagnating or falling across virtually all business sectors.
Not only is the bad for industry growth and the wider economy, but it also highlights another more serious problem: that workers are either unwilling or unable to recognise when their wellbeing is being negatively affected at work or they’re becoming physically or mentally unwell.
KNOWING THE KEY warning SIGNS
Wellbeing in the workplace, and mental wellbeing in particular, still has something of a stigma attached to it. It’s often difficult for people to come forward to talk about the issues that may be affecting them for several reasons; including fear of losing their job, other people’s opinion, or simply hesitation about discussing personal issues with their superiors.
This hesitation and unwillingness to raise their wellbeing concerns can lead to minor stress-related conditions snowballing into more serious mental illnesses.
Now, it doesn’t take experts at employee engagement to tell you that if you have a stressed out or unwell workforce, your business simply won’t flourish. But what we will say is that it’s now essential – more than ever – for organisations to step up and take a proactive approach to their employee’s wellbeing and recognise the signs when things aren’t quite right in a business.
So, given that staff may be unwilling or unsure about approaching their employers about their mental wellness, how can you spot the signs of a stressed workforce?
1. INCREASED WORKLOADS
Having busy periods is normal for any business and is often considered a sign of continued success; but when workloads are high and consistently remain high, it can lead to employees overworking and simply ‘burning out’.
A key indication that may highlight the fact someone is stressing about their workload is when they have a never-ending list of tasks or consistent blockers to getting anything effectively finished.
Having an overflowing inbox of tasks can have the effect of deterring employees to perform their day-to-day role effectively for two reasons: stress caused by the seemingly never-ending workload, or simply the constant need to rush through work just to get it done and move onto the next task.
This overloading of work can also be a hidden problem. Many employees will often refrain from raising this type of issue for being fearful of bosses simply thinking they’re just whining about their job. As a result, the problem can go left unchecked and, at its most extreme, cause stressful situations to spiral out of control into more serious mental illnesses.
2. LACK OF ENGAGEMENT
Continually stressed workers will often begin to lose engagement with their job or employers, which is obviously bad news for productivity, efficiency and growth. This statement can also be backed up with research that has shown in 2017, over a third of the UK workforce had become disengaged from their jobs, with 66% of them citing stress as the main reason why.
The most obvious signs of this can be workers who will arrive and leave on the button at the start or end of their shifts, to more extreme examples – such as a total disinterest in targets, workloads or their colleagues around them. It may also be smaller things, too; for example, not attending company events or not showing an interest in their own career development.
If you’re noticing disengaged members of your workforce, there will be underlying reasons behind it which shouldn’t just be ignored or put down to a couple of ‘bad eggs’.
As an employer, it’s your duty to discover what the problems are behind any lack of staff engagement and work towards solving them before you start to lose your employees altogether.
3. ABSENT OR EVER-PRESENT STAFF
If your workforce is constantly busting their guts to get their work done, meet deadlines or targets, they may not have sufficient energy or interest to face long, tiring days at work week in, week out. If staff phoning in sick is a regular occurrence, then it may be a giant red flag indicating a far bigger problem than just an outbreak of a nasty cold.
Similarly, there may also be staff who refuse to take time off even when they’re clearly unwell. This can be to a number of reasons; the never-ending workloads we mentioned earlier, lack of sufficient staff cover or fear of being seen as a shirker.
Regardless, soldiering on at work when you’re ill shouldn’t be encouraged because a worker not firing on all cylinders can be just as damaging for productivity as a missing employee; plus, it can also lead to minor illnesses dragging on for longer, spreading around the workplace or just getting worse.
4. NEGATIVE BEHAVIOURS
Stress has a habit of bringing out the less desirable characteristics in people, and if your employees are starting to behave negatively towards each other, it’s most likely because they are getting stressed out.
You may find that workers are getting easily annoyed when faced with day-to-day tasks or worse still, an increase in complaints about behaviour from colleagues. This type of behaviour can easily ruin a person’s professional life but can also affect their personal life, too. Plus, examples of unresolved anger like this can seriously affect emotional wellbeing – so it needs to be kept in check and carefully addressed if it’s becoming an issue.
On a slightly subtler level, you may also find that workers simply don’t want to engage or interact with each other – or perhaps they always seem to be in a downcast mood. Employees won’ be able to put in their best work when they’re not in a great emotional space, so if this type of negativity is becoming apparent in your workplace, it might be because your staff are under abnormal amounts of stress.
Whilst we may not live in the age of a ‘job for life’, staff turnover can be a real problem for businesses looking to grow or meet certain targets. After all, constantly having to recruit and replace valuable skill sets can be one of the biggest blockers to business growth.
Whilst employees coming and going is of course not unusual, the length of time they stay in a role or with an organisation is a good indication of whether or not the company culture is in rude health. For example, the millennial generation are perhaps the first of a new generation of workers who accept they won’t stay in the same role for years and years; In fact, a recent survey by LinkedIn found that 30% of millennials planned to leave their current role within a year.
More importantly however, is that they also recognise the importance of wellbeing and work-life balance when it comes to deciding on their job roles. So, if your workplace doesn’t have an appealing atmosphere or culture, you may find that your workers won’t be hanging around for long.
With millennials already holding around 20% of management positions – and this will only rise with more joining the world of work – it’s important to focus on wellbeing in the workplace to encourage these generations to stay with their employers that little bit longer.
TIME TO TAKE ACTION?
With the need for businesses to work smarter, more efficiently and more profitably, there’s always going to be a balancing act between the needs of an organisation and the wellbeing of it’s staff; however, with the link between employee wellbeing and productivity being abundantly clear, it’s something organisations can no-longer afford to ignore.
If you’re noticing any of the symptoms appearing in your workplace, now is the time to take action before it becomes a bigger issue.