HR & Management

Mind control: All professionals have moments of stress

7 min read

31 October 2017

The UK has been steeped in a culture of overtime, leading to numerous moments of stress which, when not taken care of, could stack up and place pressure on your mental health.

Our nation happens to have the longest working hours in Europe, meaning less time to relax and enjoy the smaller things in life. Staff and bosses alike are thus placed under a lot of pressure, racking up moments of stress.

While stress isn’t deemed a mental health problem, many believe it is the primary cause of them – and it arguably alters our ability to cope with work. It’s not something you can turn off like a switch though, stressed Xenia Kingsley, senior account manager at Magenta Associates.

All sectors and roles put pressure on people in some way, she said – it unfortunately goes hand-in-hand with the corporate world. But while many bosses focus on dealing with stress when it happens, not enough is being done to alleviate it before symptoms start showing.

Speaking further to Real Business, Kingsley unveils that the true challenge in reducing moments of stress is that what affects one person may not affect another. 

What do you believe are the benefits of investing in employees’ health and wellbeing?

The benefits of investing in employee health and wellbeing are clear; they will be happier and healthier and you will retain them for longer.

What’s more, you’ll get the best out of them as they will be more engaged and productive. As an inclusive employer, you will also attract talent from a broader pool and find yourself with a more diverse workforce. It’s also the right thing to do.

In what ways do you boost employee wellbeing?

Magenta offers a lot of the wellbeing initiatives that many companies do, such as the standard office fruit bowl, allowing dogs in the workplace (something myself and my dog Kipper are very pleased about!), and providing mentoring from senior team members.

But it also provides free massages every quarter, a healthy breakfast every day, barista quality coffee, annual European team breaks (we’ve just returned from our latest in Lisbon) and mental health and wellbeing workshops at every company away day. Our last one focused on managing stress and personal impact.

What’s particularly important is that we listen to our employees and adapt our wellbeing offering to meet people’s wants and needs. For example, while we used to have a weekly pilates class, the team decided that because of our diverse fitness needs, working with a personal trainer would be more beneficial.

Outside of work, some members of the team go running together, which we actively encourage and celebrate. Magenta sponsors team members when they take part in marathons or other charity runs, such as the London 10 Mile earlier this year.

If money was no object, what health and wellbeing perks/schemes would you advocate employers have in place?

As someone who has experienced anxiety and depression, I’ve personally found counselling very useful. Talking openly about our mental wellbeing – and moments of stress – can be difficult, but it’s incredibly helpful. If money were no object, I’d love to see more organisations offering free or at least subsidised counselling sessions.

I do think however, that regardless of what initiative an organisation offers, senior buy-in is critical. If leaders are not seen to be embracing these benefits then it’s almost impossible to set a behavioural precedent and overcome any underlying stigma.

How would you advise SME bosses address staff mental health?

Dame Kelly Holmes, the gold medalist olympian, said: “The best companies that support mental ill-health are those with permanent fixtures in place. People don’t want to have a form handed to them or a doctor to see after waiting three months, they want a permanent, safe place to go to.”

I have to agree that however SME bosses address the mental health of their workforce, the effort has to be sustained. A one-off workshop or charity day is a great start for raising awareness, but these actions are just tokenistic if not underpinned by a genuine desire to create a more accepting and supportive workplace.

What do you believe are some of the best ways to reduce stress in the office?

All professions have their moments of stress, though some far more frequently than others. I think it’s important we don’t just focus on dealing with stress when it happens, but on preventing it from occurring. The challenge here is that stress is a very individual thing, and what affects one person may not affect another.

Creating a supportive environment, with open lines of communication is a key step to reducing moments of stress, as it is frequently caused by workplace worries such as feeling overwhelmed or unsupported.

What are some of the signs of stress to look out for?

One in three UK workers are dealing with anxiety, depression or stress according to a recent report by PwC, but it’s often hard to spot.

While changes in behaviour, such as social withdrawal, falling standards of personal hygiene and grooming, slowed speech or movement, or altered eating habits (over or under-eating) might indicate stress – the best way to identify that someone is struggling is by talking to them.

As Time to Change’s “In your corner” campaign recently highlighted, sometimes the smallest acts, such as asking someone how they are can make the biggest impact.

How do you unwind after a tough week?

For me, spending time outdoors is an incredible de-stressor. Fresh air and exercise helps put things in perspective and relaxes me. I also believe in a good old fashioned chin-wag to depressurise. Friends and family are invaluable for this – thanks Mum!

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