For the last three years, workers have set and broken record after record for workplace stress, depression and anxiety; in this blog I’d like to research and understand some of these issues, as well as give some examples of how to overcome them.
At HeX, we work with leading UK charity, Together, which gives us a insight into why mental health is important among our staff and why we should champion this. Today, we are sharing our knowledge with you, to help you identify potential causes of workplace stress and eradicate any negative mental health amongst your staff.
One of the first things I’d like to address here, is the type of work I’m talking about. Though these issues affect most, if not all fields, I’m talking specifically about corporate and office environments as this is where almost all of my experience and research is. Although I’ll be covering a range of issues and possible solutions, these are by no means the only solutions and I’d encourage people who aren’t happy with their mental health to seek professional help (see links at the bottom of this blog).
Leading causes of the previously mentioned workplace stress, depression and anxiety issues are workers feeling like they have a lack of agency, appreciation or being put under excess pressure. Though these are broad categorisations, I’ll be going into each of them in more detail, as well as potential ways to improve or adapt the work environment to reduce or remove them entirely.
Common Causes of Workplace Stress
Lack of Agency
Firstly, I’d like to talk about employees feeling a lack of agency in their workplace, which can be caused by any number of issues, although commonly this is caused by mismanagement of workload between team members. A workload is mismanaged when a teams’ skills and interests are not considered by their manager, which can come in many forms. A common example is when workers don’t feel they’re being used to their full potential which often stems from them being assigned tasks which may not challenge them or aren’t related to their work.
This can lead to a range of issues which can degrade a worker’s confidence and mental health, such as doubting their abilities and value, as well as stunting their motivation. Though this is often a common issue it’s often easy to solve through a conversation with your manager. This isn’t to say, however, that you should demand not to be given these tasks as despite their nature, they are likely to be important. It’s in both workers and managers’ best interests to make effective use of employees and keep them happy. A solution to this is for the work to be more evenly distributed between team members or put on a rotation to ensure that one person doesn’t work too regularly on these tasks so as not to erode their mental health.
Another cause of a worker to feel like they have little control or agency in their workplace is a lack of transparency within the team. This again is often an issue which comes from mismanagement or poor communication. Although this is more difficult to achieve in larger office environments, proper communication between employees and management is essential for spotting potential stress or discomfort early, before it can become a larger issue. One great way to help combat this issue is by holding regular meetings between workers and management to provide both parties with feedback, as well as help provide employees with information giving context and direction to the work they’re doing.
In addition to a lack of agency in their work, some workers can find that though they understand the purpose of their work and have no trouble completing it. But they do struggle with motivation and negative feelings as they generally feel under-appreciated for the work they’re doing.
Although it’s not unusual for people to feel that they don’t get as much recognition as they would like for their work, in some cases it can lead to a range of issues which could be easily avoided. These often include simply burning out on a project or piece of work, as well as low confidence or doubting their own abilities or worth if the issue continues over time. This can lead to issues such as resentment towards the company they work for. It can also lead to anxiety about their work, which in the long-term could be a leading cause of decreased output and motivation. This again can often be attributed to a lack of communication within teams and, again, reaffirms the importance of an effective feedback process within the workplace.
Another instance of mismanagement which can affect a workers’ well-being can come from being overworked. In contrast to previously mentioned issues where workers can feel undervalued or underutilised in their job, it’s also possible that being overworked can have a negative effect on a workers’ mental well-being. Pressure can easily cause workplace stress or trigger depressive tendencies in employees, which is likely to affect both their work and personal lives, often adding to pre-existing issues and exacerbating them further.
Factors in workplace stress can also be caused by external pressures in someone’s life, though these often aren’t related to work directly they can make the issues caused in the workplace feel even worse and add to the overall problems faced by the worker. One way which this can be combated at the workplace is to help divide home and work. This is important because it ensures that even if a person is dealing with issues at work or home they can separate themselves from those issues more effectively. It is essential, however, to consult a professional to work through these issues immediately rather than letting them exaggerate themselves.
Separating work and home can be done simply and can be achieved by discouraging employees from working from home in the evenings and, unless essential, encouraging them to not work at home and attend the office. It’s also important to regulate overtime in the office, to ensure that workers have a healthy work to free time balance. Having a healthy balance will help reduce pressure, stress and give managers a better idea of an appropriate workload by preventing people from bringing additional work out of office hours.
- Mind – Work And Mental Health (Mental health charity, Mind, offers some great advice regarding keeping mentally healthy at work)
- NHS Choices – 10 Stress Busters (The NHS Choices page offers some great advice on how to stay stress free)
- Samaritans – Mental Health Support (Samaritans are available for anyone who wishes to talk about their mental health issues)
- Rethink Mental Illness Advice Line (Provides support and guidance for employees and employers and health practitioners)
- Rethink Mental Health – Crisis Advice (Provides guidance for those who are responsible for or are supporting someone suffering from mental health problems)