Whilst some business challenges are unique to specific industries and markets, others are universal in their nature and impact on small, medium and large ventures alike.
Take the concept of workplace stress, for example, which continues to weigh heavily on firms and employees from across the globe.
In the UK alone, more than 11 million working days are lost to stress each and every year, whilst it’s thought that U.S. companies lose an estimated $300 billion annually due to the burden placed on individual employees.
This challenge is particularly problematic for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), who often lack the resources and infrastructure to cope with long-term absences.
So, how can your SME tackle workplace stress effectively and realize the full potential of each individual staff member? Here are some ideas to help you on your way:
Identify Those at Risk and Understand the Impact of Workplace Stress
This is a sensible starting point for all SMEs, as knowledge and understanding pertaining to workplace stress should underpin any measures that you use to tackle the issue head-on.
Several studies have sought to identify the key trends in relation to workplace stress, with one report commissioned by UK firm Virtual College offering a particularly fascinating insight.
More specifically, this revealed that women are more likely to experience workplace stress than men, with 85% of females reporting relevant issues to their line manager (as opposed to just 74% of men).
At the same time, the study suggested that around 15% of all employees suffering with stress failed to achieve their New Years’ resolutions as a result of their condition, creating a scenario whereby their work-life balance is disturbed significantly.
This is particularly relevant when you consider that 40% of staff members set weight loss as their primary resolution, as the failure to accomplish this can trigger additional issues such as depression, anxiety and a fundamental lack of motivation.
These are just two of many insights that have been revealed through a number of global studies, and collating this data can help SMEs to identify employees who may be at greater risk of becoming stressed at work.
Beyond this, you should also ensure that you interact with your employees and determine how certain individuals are being affected by workplace stress. This can create an even greater and more precise level of knowledge and understanding, leading to more informed decision-making in the future.
Encourage Leaders and Managers in Your Business to Speak Out
Whilst stress is commonly associated with those who operate in senior and well-paid job roles, it’s a widespread issue that can afflict anyone in the workplace.
An individual’s personal circumstances can also exacerbate the impact of even moderate workplace stress, so it’s important to create an environment where all members of staff feel able to identify their symptoms and communicate them to management.
Remember, the Mental Health Foundation has reported that almost one-in-ten (9%) of employees are unable to admit that the workplace is the real reason for their stress, and this can prevent them from getting to the root cause of their mental health issues.
One way to achieve this objective is to encourage your key business leaders and stakeholders to speak out and share their own experiences of workplace stress.
This not only helps to create transparency around the issue of workplace stress, but it also enables empowers leaders to offer actionable advice to their staff members and demonstrate healthy behaviors such as taking regular breaks during the working day.
This strategy is particularly effective for SMEs, as their leaders tend to be more visible and work more closely with individual employees on a day-to-day basis.
Over time, this should create an honest and open business culture, and one that reassures employees that their workplace stress will be taken seriously by senior management.
Recognize the Link Between Physical and Mental Wellbeing
We’ve already touched on the number of studies that have explored the nature of stress, and most have highlighted an intrinsic link between physical and mental wellbeing.
On a fundamental level, the combination of a balanced diet and regular physical activity is thought to provide a solid foundation for good mental health.
Whilst minimizing the consumption of sugar and caffeine can actively reduce your levels of stress, for example, exercise releases endorphins to improve your mood and capacity to deal with the most challenging workloads.
With this in mind, it’s imperative that your SME takes practical steps towards optimizing the physical health of each employee.
For example, you may want to replace unhealthy vending machine snacks and beverages with fresh fruit and non-carbonated drinks.
Similarly, you should consider partnering with a local gym to provide discounted memberships for employers, as part of a progressive benefits package that actively targets the impact of workplace stress and an improved work-life balance.
Some companies even participate in some form of cycle-to-work initiative, which typically aims to encourage employees to leave their cars behind and commute to work by offering tax breaks on the procurement of bikes and equipment.
This is also considered to be an Eco-friendly initiative, but there’s no doubt that it can play an influential role in lowering work-related stress and creating a far healthier workforce over time.