Stress levels are an important factor for workers considering whether they stay or leave their job.

In fact, recent research by social media polling company Stickybeak and employee experience consultancy SGEnz showed stress and wellbeing ranked higher than wages and career development for workers. 

A focus on health and wellbeing is important for any company, regardless of size. 

When staff are healthy, there's reduced absenteeism, higher productivity and better team morale. 

Gallup, in its 2020 report Employee Burnout: Causes and Cures, found that 76% of employees experience burnout on the job at least “sometimes”, while 28% report it “very often” or “always”. 

Small businesses probably have limited resources to invest in expensive wellness programmes and benefits; however, just by starting to think and talk about the issue, you can make a difference in people’s ability to have improved wellbeing.

Energy drain

We think of physical and mental health and wellbeing as they affect a person’s capacity to have the necessary energy to do their job and best fulfil their responsibilities. 

Performance psychologist Jim Loehr and journalist Tony Schwartz, in their Harvard Business Review article The Making of a Corporate Athlete, defined energy as “our ability to work". 

Most people know that one of the biggest sources of energy drain is the stress we must deal with daily. Loehr and Schwartz say it's not the presence of stress that reduces a person’s effectiveness, but rather their inability to recover energy levels after dealing with the demands of stress. 

Managers would do well to find ways to help their workers to be more energetic. (Image: Depositphotos)

Energy is important; when you think about supporting your employees’ health and wellbeing, consider ways to enhance or replenish their energy and remove anything that may diminish it. 

In my business, I often ask organisations to consider what or who creates stress and fatigue, what prevents people from recharging (because I do not believe we can avoid stress) and ways to help people have more energy. 

We must accept the presence of stress in all people’s lives and that the workplace is often a cause of that stress for several different reasons. 

We’ve found that workplace stress is mainly due to the demands placed on people to perform and be productive.

Some managers or companies don't consider how to get that performance without using a commanding or authoritative approach based on people’s need to work and earn a living. 

Destigmatising stress

Companies must also recognise the role the manager plays in health, wellness, and levels of stress. 

How a manager interacts with their people each day is more important than any benefit or perk you can offer. 

Managers affect an employee’s heart, mind, and energy level more than any other thing at work. So, before considering specific health and wellbeing programmes and offerings, start by understanding how your managers treat their teams. 

A manager who is inconsiderate, disrespectful, overly critical and commanding can create more stress in people than almost anything else. 

One of the most important steps a company, owner, or manager can take on mental health is to destigmatise it. There must be more conversations and honesty around the fact that we all get stressed and have moments when our mental health is under threat. 

Increased level of empathy

Recently, we interviewed a group of employees at a construction company. They said that once their manager talked to them about his own mental wellbeing, it took down the attitude that such conversations were a sign of weakness. 

Often, people just need to know that they're not alone to feel better and get help. 

With this understanding, managers and owners can show a greater level of empathy towards those under pressure by listening and offering support. 

Giving staff the chance to take a break from work can improve workplace culture. (Image: Depositphotos)

Organisations are not expected to be experts in mental health and wellbeing, but they are expected to have information about mental-health services and be willing to give people the opportunity to take a time out for themselves. 

Companies are even partnering with healthcare experts to ensure their employees have access to the help and support they need. 

Other things to consider in developing a culture that supports improved wellbeing is to ensure your staff get breaks and can disconnect from work. 

Information and technology overload 

Managers control the message on whether an employee feels they must always be connected and available for work, but companies are starting to realise they need to take a stand and address this issue. 

They're recognising the information and technology overload that's so common now and are putting in place meeting- or technology-free workdays, turning off emails at lunch or overnight, and tech-free annual leave. 

We recommend the first step in this process is to be open and transparent about the impact of stress at work. Start the dialogue with your team to understand the stressors in your workplace and how you can all work together to reduce their impact.