For many businesses, stress is becoming an increasing problem that hinders employee productivity. In fact, in 2015 there were almost 500,000 cases of anxiety, depression and stress in the workplace. As well as this, in 2016 employees working for UK businesses took 11.7 million days off because of the same ailments, which translated to a loss of at least £2.4 billion.
Most people will suffer from stress at some point in their lives, experiencing both psychological and physical symptoms that range from headaches to feelings of depression. However, there are a number of preventative measures that can be implemented to reduce workplace stress.
The Health & Safety Executive conducted a survey to investigate specific causes of work related stress. The survey found that too heavy workloads, disproportionate responsibility and a lack of support from management were the main culprits.
Spotting stress in the workplace
The occupations that suffer most from stress include education, health and social care, public administration and defence. However, given the high figures of stress related illness, it’s extremely likely that a proportion of your employees will experience symptoms of stress at some point during their career. All employers have a duty of care for their workforce under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which covers stress and work related illness. It’s therefore imperative to listen to your employees and provide the necessary care for those who require it.
It’s important to bear in mind that personal issues, such as bereavement, divorce or financial problems, can exasperate an employee’s ability to cope in the workplace. If you feel that a member of staff is struggling, talk to them privately and reassure them that they have your full support. For many workers just being aware that they have the support of their employers can be a huge relief, quickening the steps towards a fast recovery.
Symptoms of stress can manifest themselves as any of the below:
Make it known in the work place that if members of staff are suffering from any of the above symptoms they should inform their team leader or manager, who will provide them with the necessary support and advice to get them back on track.
Preventing stress with workplace tech
It’s common knowledge that more exercise, a healthier diet, and getting rid of vices like smoking or binge drinking, can help to reduce stress. However, putting the above into action is easier said than done. One solution that businesses can pursue, in order to encourage their employees to be healthier, happier and stress free, is tech.
Stress Relief Wearables
With the recent boom in wearable tech, there are a number of new devices that aim to reduce stress and improve mental and physical health. Prana is the first wearable that tracks your breathing and posture, gently alerting you when you could improve.
The aim of the device is to activate your body’s relaxation response rapidly and effectively, combatting the negative effects that stress or general office work can have on your posture, and helping you to maintain steady breathing when under pressure.
But what does the future of stress-relieving wearables look like? The company Thync have recently developed wearable devices that attach to the neck or head. The devices emit safe, low level electrical stimulation to activate nerve pathways. These pathways communicate with parts of the brain that help to control stress levels, mood and sleep.
The device works with an app on your smartphone through which you can choose the stimulation pattern that best suits your current needs. This could be the ‘deep relaxation’ function for stressful times in the office, or a stimulation pattern for deep sleep, as a good nights sleep is imperative to feeling revitalised, rejuvenated and stress free.
Whilst stress is considered to be a psychological problem, there are a number of physical factors that contribute to stress. Smoking is one such factor as smokers depend on nicotine to maintain normal moods and stave off agitation or anxiety. One piece of tech helping to combat smoking addiction is the e-cigarette, which can help to reduce nicotine intake slowly, without the adverse effects of smoking tobacco.
Whilst e-cigarettes can help to control the physical effects of nicotine withdrawal, apps such as Quitter’s Circle give the psychological support. Through the app, quitters can communicate, giving each other encouragement and emotional support when necessary.
The office space
The ‘interactive office’ is one of the current tech buzzwords sweeping the world of business. Whilst the limited size of computer monitors can make multitasking or dealing with large quantities of data overwhelming, large interactive interfaces allow the user/s to flexibly arrange data, images and different applications. This creates a more manageable work surface that will reduce feelings of stress, increase productivity and make team working an integral part of office life.
Although the interactive office is taking the present by storm, the future of the office lies in virtual reality. By 2020 tech website Information-Age predicts that flexible working will be commonplace, with workforces communicating almost exclusively through instant messaging, mobile, video and email.
The result? A growth in virtual rather than physical office spaces, which will allow employees to work from the comfort of their own home, in control of their own time. This can help improve mental health as stressful commutes are eliminated and work-life conflicts, such as school runs or hospital appointments, are reduced.
Disorganisation inevitably leads to heightened stress, anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. Luckily, there are a number of apps that can help employees keep on top of workloads, get organised, and streamline their day.
Uskape is one such app that is currently in beta testing, promising to ‘connect the dots between your calendar, contacts, content, communications and commitments’, in order to prioritise and organise your working day.
For many, the inbox can be a great source of anxiety, as employees must sift through promotional emails, spam and irrelevant correspondence to locate urgent mail. The Unroll.me app is a great solution to the problem of spam, allowing users to unsubscribe to all mailing list or junk mail in one click, saving time and getting your emails organised in the process.
As an employee, it is your responsibility to make the workspace as stress-free, healthy and user friendly as possible. The best way to achieve this is through implementing preventative measures. Ensure that you keep a line of communication open between staff and management at all times, and be sure to explore the number of solutions available, tech and otherwise, that will make the workspace a pleasant, stress-free place to be.