To shed some light on supporting staff through mental health issues such as stress, one small business told us about its approach to ensuring it’s staff are supported and can flourish.
Loneliness and stress can be difficult to overcome at any time, but especially so in the early days of a business.
As we have explored earlier in our Health & Wellbeing campaign, mental health is not something to be shied away from – and if you do it can end up hurting your bottom line.
According to Health and Safety Executive, in 2015/16, stress, depression and anxiety accounted for 11.7m days lost due to ill-health, out of a total of 30.4m days. That is a significant chunk of that lost time attributed to mental health issues.
It’s not hard to see the benefits of managing stress and mental health issues within a workforce – if you can catch the early warning signs that someone is struggling, you can offer them help and guidance and hopefully limit the lost work hours.
One way of battling stress and loneliness in the early days of as business is to invest in shared working spaces, which can bring the hustle and bustle and professional vibe to a startup team of even three or four employees.
Recently, research from CareerCast ranked event coordinating the fifth most stressful job for the second consecutive year – only military personnel, fire fighter, airline pilot and police offer roles were deemed more stressful.
With that in mind, we caught up with Matthew Rickard, operations director at WONDER London, a small producer of corporate and consumer events based in Shoreditch, to find out how he tackles one of the most stressful industries around.
Why is it important to manage employee health and wellbeing, and help employees when they are under too much stress?
You need people to operate as a business. You need them to provide you with a return on investment. You therefore need to look after and nurture them.
What’s more, if a business loses people due to stress, it will affect their ability to recruit in future. I want WONDER London to be known as a great place to work, as a considerate employer and one that our people would recommend to a friend. Some of our best recruits have come in as friends of an existing employee.
What measures do you have in place to manage stress?
One of the most crucial ways to manage stress in our industry is to work collaboratively. It is vital that no single person feels the burden of a project’s weight too much. By working collaboratively at all times means (we hope) that this doesn’t happen. It also protects us as a business because if we lose a person to sickness, we don’t have an instant “brain drain”. Instead, there are other team members who can pick up the baton.
Through collaborative working and talking regularly, we hope to identify pressure points in projects and plan for them before they become unmanageable. But it’s also about allowing people to form their own routines where possible. For example, we allow remote working if this helps relieve stress. We also provide a comfortable working environment (we recently moved into a bigger office) with comfy spaces away from desks if people want a bit of quiet time.
What are the signs you might pick up on that an employee is under too much stress?
Anything that is outside of their usual characteristics. Maybe they have become insular when they are normally talkative. Maybe they are unusually short-tempered or indecisive. These are the kind of signs of stress that business leaders need to look out for.
In an ideal world, if money was no object, what measures would you put in place to manage employee stress?
What we would really want to invest in are things that help our people achieve sound body and mind. This could be via workplace activities, incentives or encouraging the team to develop healthier lifestyle habits. Regular group exercise, before work or even during the day, would help sweat out the pressure of the day and keep people fresh.
It’s also about ensuring the office is set up to help people unwind, like including a quiet, acoustic space in every workplace. Our new office, for instance, has two acoustic meeting rooms for people to escape to.
What would be your advice for small businesses looking to improve their employees’ stress levels, and general health and wellbeing?
Engage with them! Understand what they want, what would help them de-stress. Not everyone would want to run around the park at lunchtime. Each person has their own unique needs and ways of coping. I’d also say smaller businesses should learn from the mistakes of larger or older companies. We have a big opportunity to reinvent the rules and do right by our staff.
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