Today is Stress Awareness Day and MIND (a leading mental health charity) has just released research showing that millions of people take sickies to cope with stress at work and that they lie to their bosses about the reasons for those sickies. I suspect that most of us have been in this position at some stage during our working life.
Taking a day off might help to some degree – giving you a chance to wind down, or up, or both, whichever is right for you – but it doesn’t solve the problem for the long term. The same pressures will continue; it takes corporate, not individual, action to change the level of stress at work.
For many organisations, facing up to the fact that stress is an issue can be hugely counter-cultural and intimidating. It is often the case that the people creating stress for others are under stress themselves – and they can be as reluctant to be honest about this to their bosses, as their staff are about being honest to them. The merry-go-round of stress goes merrily round with people at every level unable to stop and get off.
It doesn’t have to be like this. While a certain degree of stress is good for each of us – it drives us on, inspires us, encourages achievement, helps us aim high – an unmanageable level of stress can adversely affect individual and corporate performance. At the very least, it increases the number of sickies we take.
More and more organisations realise that they need policies to manage stress in the workplace. Some policies might be relatively easy to introduce (reducing noise, for example) but others require greater corporate effort (training leaders to recognise stress in themselves and others, and how to minimise or overcome it). Getting outside help, including to formulate and implement those policies, is one way for business leaders to reduce their own stress (delegating is an important stress-reliever) as well as the stress their staff feel – so everyone can concentrate on their own, and the business success.
How did you cope on Stress Awareness Day?