The statistics alone illustrate why business needs to pay closer attention to helping staff manage stress. Approximately 70 million working days are lost each year to mental ill-health and a quarter of employees consider resigning due to stress.
This means forward-thinking companies that tackle mental-health concerns such as stress, anxiety and depression with a holistic approach are reaping the benefits – not only from a happier, more effective workforce, but in their budgets, too. In a recent report on mental wellbeing in the workplace, the WHO estimated that every US$1 invested in mental-health treatment gave a return of US$4 in improved health and productivity.
But it’s not always easy to spot. One new scientific model illustrates how stress can start as a small concern and escalate to harmful behavioural change. It explains that there are four stages in the human stress-response cycle, and individuals only reach the next stage if the original stressor is not dealt with. The first stage is the environmental demand: what is being expected of an individual in a particular scenario. The second stage is the individual’s perception of stage one – if they feel an imbalance between the task and their capability, it can trigger anxiety and self-doubt. The third stage is the point at which the individual is likely to experience a physiological response to a situation. In the final stage, the individual’s behaviour is altered as a result of the stress and their performance will be affected.
Increasingly, talented professionals look for workplaces that deliver initiatives to nurture and support them, both professionally and personally. The days of dealing with mental health at work in a reactive manner – as and when conflicts arise – are gone. An increasing number of employers are adopting a preventative approach, helping employees manage stress at work before it becomes harmful.
A human workplace
So what are the first steps to enforcing this change? Stacy Thomson is an NHS mental-health nurse and cognitive behavioural coach, and is the founder and CEO of The Performance Club, a consultancy focused on enhancing organisation and individual mental health using psychological expertise. She pinpoints the need for a focus on emotional intelligence in the workplace. “Many great things have evolved over the past few decades, but I have to say we have severely neglected our human side. I believe we need to move from a perfectionist culture to a learning culture, and teaching needs to be an essential part of the employee journey. With that comes the education of self.” The Performance Club works with organisations to implement educational mental-health programmes that aim to improve wellbeing and performance.
In order to be effective, these initiatives need to exist beyond the office and support the increasing number of employees who travel with work. Here, too, there is help. A number of workplace mindfulness schemes have apps that can be accessed on the go. Mental-wellbeing platform Unmind (home.unmind.com) is one example. This programme has been implemented by many large businesses, such as the John Lewis Partnership, Just Eat and Yorkshire Building Society, and offers employees guided mindfulness exercises, tools such as mood trackers and advice on how to manage stress, all of which can be accessed on the move.
But there are other things companies can do. Recent research has identified a fascinating causal link between high cognitive load – that is, the number of things a person has to try to remember to take care of – and a decline in the ability to manage tasks. So, helping employees to ‘declutter’ their minds by reducing paperwork and admin results in happier staff that are more able to cope with life and work and manage stress levels normally. This is something Gett’s business solutions are designed for – end-to-end transport, with no expense forms, receipts, claims, lost hours or cognitive clutter.
As we work towards a future where developing an employee’s sense of self is as important as developing their skill set, companies should be looking to commit time, investment and training to understanding the mental wellbeing of their workforce.
There are no easy solutions to this complex area of mental health, but one way Gett can help is with stress-free, reliable transport. Plus, if you like to plan ahead, use Gett’s one-month pre-ordering option with no extra charges.
Image credits: Getty Images