It’s February, your firm has survived all that the tricky first month of the year can throw at it and you are looking ahead in a positive frame of mind.
And yet members of your workforce still seem depressed, irritable and are not producing the goods.
It could be a double whammy of stress and people suffering from the winter blues – or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 440,000 people in the UK reported work-related stress at a level they felt was making them ill in 2014/15.
It means stress is responsible for 40 per cent of all work-related illnesses, and the HSE estimates that that equates to over 105 million working days lost to the problem each year.
Health officials say that around two million people in the UK are affected by SAD, thought to be depression related to the shorter daylight hours in winter.
Add the two together and it spells a big problem for small and medium sized businesses, so what can you do to try and tackle the problem in the workplace?
Recognising and knowing how to tackle stress is the key for all firms.
Stress can manifest itself in a number of ways, but typical signs include:
- An increased irritability, poor concentration, reduced productivity, lack of confidence
- Becoming more ‘emotional’, moody or sensitive to what others say
- Taking more time off than usual, arriving late, not taking lunch breaks, not joining in with office banter or missing deadlines
- Deteriorating personal or work relationships, including bullying behaviours
- Starting to behave differently – something that’s out of the ‘norm’
- Physical reactions such as sweating, looking tired, having a constant cold, rapid weight loss or gain
A little stress can help employees focus and prepare for action – but prolonged stress can lead to physical and mental problems and long spells of absence.
From a boss’ point of view this is damaging to the company as it can hit productivity, develop a culture of absenteeism, decrease motivation in the workforce, strain relationships between employees, lead to a high staff turn-over, and ultimately potential legal action for failing to protect the mental health of an employee.
Add to this the issue of the winter blues – are your employees arriving in darkness, leaving in darkness and not taking a lunch break so they never see daylight?
So, if you’ve identified a problem, what can you do?
In the short-term, you could offer stress-management workshops, make sure staff take all their holidays, make sure people can relax on holiday by having suitable cover, be aware of workloads, and make staff feel appreciated.
The short-term fixes are fine, but you also need to look at longer-term solutions such as the work environment, offering training, reducing pressure where possible, or even encouraging self-help strategies.
If you need help with tackling stress and SAD in your workplace, contact Ansa HR for guidance on 01270 446 444 – we’d be happy to help out.