Written by Ciara Duggan and

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The summer holidays are now in full swing, with thousands of employees up and down the country enjoying their annual leave and their well-earned break from work.

Unfortunately, the work does not stop in their absence. Many of their colleagues who are not out on leave will be asked to pick up this extra work over the next few weeks, resulting in much higher stress levels. In a survey carried out by Westfield Health, 37% of HR professionals felt that their workplaces did not do enough to prepare for the inevitable loss of staff to annual leave, which can have the effect of adding unnecessary stress to those left in the office.

While many employees will have expected this uptick in work, it draws attention to the wider issue of how to effectively manage stress in the workplace. Further research by Lane4, a management consultancy, found that 46% of those who responded did not feel their employers provided them with enough resources to cope with stress, and 38% did not feel able to tell their manager how stressed they were feeling.

Many employers are now more aware of the need to manage their employees’ stress but may be unsure of how to go about doing so. It does not need to be expensive or time-consuming to start reducing the stress employees are under, and small steps such as reminding employees to take regular breaks away from their desks or praising them for good work can help. In research carried out by the CIPD, management style was found to be one of the biggest causes of employee stress. However, by working alongside HR and taking part in appropriate training, managers can become some of the most effective stress relievers. A manager who is able to adapt their management style to suit different employees will be able to communicate more effectively, and therefore become more approachable to staff who may feel as though they are struggling with the workloads.

This in turn helps to create a positive working environment, in which employees will feel able to bring their concerns to the manager and find a solution or alternative arrangement. Training can also give managers the soft skills and confidence that they need in order to spot signs of stress and have conversations with their employees to establish the cause. Managers who can spot the early warning signs such as late finishing or increasingly poor performance will be able to step in and resolve the issues before they become larger problems.

Millions of working days are lost each year on account of stress-related illness; small but important steps like creating a positive workplace culture and ensuring management are properly trained can be invaluable in tackling workplace stress and reducing its impact on employees.

8th August 2019