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Let’s roll back to January.  Space2BE noted a Harvard Business Review article by Brian Kropp[1], suggesting that employers needed to shift from managing the employee experience, to managing employees’ life experiences.  The reason?  Increased visibility into employees’ lives during the pandemic has been illuminating.  Enlightened employers have used the insight to offer enhanced personal support. Statistics show the corporate benefit has been tangible.

In our view, the need for corporate leaders to make this ‘shift’ has never been greater, as the return to the office begins.  As new July 19 ‘freedoms’ began, the CIPD warned that mental health-related absence is the UK workplace’s most common cause of long-term sickness absence.[2]  In May, the ‘Independent’ said 5 million people feared returning to work due to a pre-existing mental health condition.[3]   BUPA suggests 11m working days are lost due to work-related stress each year.[4]  How much more is to come?

What is work-related stress?

 The HSE defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them”.[5]  For employees, it can occur if there is:

  • too much pressure/ lack of planning and support around their roles
  • a skills gap
  • a poor relationship with a manager or colleagues and/or bullying at work
  • unrealistic expectations/deadlines
  • lack of clarity about role, expectations, situations
  • poor managerial leadership
  • a period of change with which it is hard to cope.

Think about the pandemic’s impacts and all could be critical areas to address.

Even before the pandemic, half a million people in the UK suffered work-related stress at a level causing illness. (BUPA).   Ways to combat workplace stress include building emotional intelligence, engaging with employees, leading change more effectively, managing teams better and building workforce resilience.  Stress can be addressed through management training and investment in individuals’ wellbeing can pay off, through enhanced performance.

Why care?

The minimum is not enough for any organisation wishing to enjoy optimal performance, good staff retention and a healthy talent pipeline.  Here, the minimum is the duty of care the law expects you to exercise over employees’ mental health.

Companies must go far further, especially after furlough, remote-working strains, bereavements and ongoing health concerns.  Fears relating to job security, safe commuting – even sharing skyscraper-office lifts, all mean the workforce is under stress like never before.

Additionally, 60% of adults told a MIND survey their mental health is worse now than before the pandemic. (Source: CIPD).

It is not just ethical, but imperative that organisations absorb this information and manage their employees’ life experience.  If not, they could suffer:

  • lower morale
  • declining productivity and creativity
  • employee disputes
  • team disintegration or burnout
  • higher sickness absence or increased presenteeism
  • difficulties in recruiting talent
  • a huge target/turnover gap

If you are not pro-actively managing stress, others are.  By late March 2020, 68% of organisations had already introduced at least one new wellbeing benefit.  Even pre-pandemic, 45% of wellbeing budget increases were assigned to mental and emotional wellbeing programmes (Source: HBR).

How can Space2BE help?

With Space2BE’s help you can go above and beyond for your workforce, whether we assist individuals, teams or the entire organisation.  Our coaches and facilitators are trained in techniques addressing many areas of stress-management and mental health and can provide strategies to bolster resilience.  This has never been more relevant or imperative.

Remember stress is not necessarily bad.  McKinsey experts have talked about the 3 Zones of Stress, the first being the familiar ‘Comfort Zone’ in which we feel calm and in charge.  The Adaptive Zone is where we move when there is a period of rapid change (as now) and which is decisive in determining our mindset.  We can either emerge from this feeling negative and with a destructive tunnel vision, or we can harness stress and turn it into a positive, through new strategies, pivoting and innovation.   If we do not derive energy from stress and, instead, emerge with negativity, we enter the Danger Zone, experiencing burnout and trauma.[6]

Nobody should want employees to enter the Danger Zone.  By working with our executive coaches and leadership consultants, you can help them reframe the threats, embrace new emotional reactions and regard situations as learning opportunities.  Armed with our coping strategies, you can benefit from a boost to your company performance through enhanced collective wellbeing.

This is not frills-focused thinking, but what you need to get your head around for the good of your organisation’s future.  Call us for help with your stress management and internal wellbeing programmes today, on 0208 720 6991.