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Workplace wellbeing strategy: how can SMEs tackle stress?

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by Startacus Admin

This year, Mental Health Awareness Week (14 - 20 May) is shining a spotlight on stress. Jaan Madan, Workplace Lead at Mental Health First Aid England, shares some top tips on how small businesses can keep their stress levels in check. 

Jaan MadanOver recent years more and more business leaders, celebrities and even the royal family have spoken up about mental health – which is encouraging to see. Together with some great mental health awareness campaigns they have helped to put the issue on the map. Now, many workplaces have woken up to the importance of strategies to improve mental wellbeing. 

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week (14-20 May), we have partnered with the Mental Health Foundation to help launch the UK’s largest ever stress survey ‘Stress: are we coping?’. The research looks at workplace stress and the results are concerning. A Stress at workthird of people are stressed about work on their own time and one in five believe ‘powering through’ stress is expected in their workplace. Clearly there is more work to do to transform increased awareness into action. 

Small business owners face a number of pressures that can contribute to workplace stress. The responsibility for leading staff, the uncertainty of retaining and winning new business, and the pressure to keep up with fast-changing tech are just some of the factors which can make it difficult to switch off from work. It may come as no surprise that 14% of workers noted they have compromised a close relationship, for example with a partner or friend, to do their job. 

What is stress? 

Everyone experiences stress and healthy amounts can help to motivate us at work. Stress is the body’s natural response when it senses danger and when it builds up over a length of time it can make us ill. As well as physical issues, too much stress can lead to mental health issues like depression or anxiety and harm our physical health. Last year, 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. 

In order to maintain longer term health and wellbeing for yourself and your team, it’s vital to take the time to reflect and address your stress. 

Change starts at the top 

With lots of competing priorities, wellbeing can often fall down the agenda. But as a small business owner you can ensure the importance of mental health is understood by all. 

sme's tackle stressSmall businesses rely on the talent and work ethic of a core group of team members – retaining these key employees is essential for business success and growth. If employees feel too stressed too often they could start looking elsewhere. So, it’s important to promote a supportive culture.

Starting the conversation 

As a business owner, it can be difficult to know where to turn if you’re feeling under pressure. But remember, it’s OK to ask for help and support. Finding someone you can trust to share your feelings and concerns with is hugely important. It plays a vital role in relieving stress and ensuring you don’t bottle up your feelings - something which can make things worse in the long run. 

As well as having someone to turn to yourself, it’s important to create a healthy, open atmosphere among employees too. A great way to start is simply by starting the conversation and encouraging everyone to set aside time, even if it starts with just ten minutes, to talk about their mental health with you or a manager. It lets everyone know their wellbeing is taken seriously and can help give them the confidence to discuss it. 

There’s a number of free, practical resources that can help you to have these conversations, from leading mental health charities, and ACAS.  In addition, there’s an ‘Address Your Stress’ toolkit has been created for Mental Health Awareness Week. 

Healthy habits

Stress can easily arise from the pressure to be ‘always on’. And for small business owners it can be a challenge to find any time at all to mentally switch off from work. However, it’s vital to ensure that you take regular opportunities to switch off from distractions, concentrate on other things and focus on yourself. Failure to do so could lead toStress are we coping a build-up of stress over time and have a negative impact on your mental and physical health.

As a leader you can make a big impact by demonstrating healthy practices like taking regular breaks and avoiding out-of-hours emails. Make sure you remind others to do so too. 

Encouraging the team to switch off from work helps ensure that people have more fresh energy and concentration during the hours they do put in. A number of businesses go further and have policies that mean people aren’t allowed to eat lunch at their desks or send emails during certain hours – all of which helps to establish a healthier work life balance and reduce stress.

Find out more about Mental Health First Aid training for your workplace at: 

Jaan Madan, Workplace Lead at Mental Health First Aid England


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Published on: 16th May 2018

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