Dealing with work-related stress – how businesses can help

Technology business leaders give advice and top tips on dealing with work-related stress in Mental Health Awareness Week.

Figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that almost 600,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2018. Around 15.4 million working days were lost as a result.

Acknowledging Mental Health Awareness Week, technology leads from ConnectWise, Skillsoft, Cybera, WhiteHat Security, Ergotron, Exabeam and Scale Computing share how to manage work-related stress, and how businesses can support employees.

Take a break from work

It is scientifically proven that disconnecting from work is good for your brain, your physical health, and productivity. 

Jennifer Locklear, Chief Talent Officer at ConnectWise advises: “It is not enough to just take a day off, you need to make sure to disconnect from your phone and email. 

“While it isn’t always possible to do that for a week at a time, start small and try taking a break during lunch without allowing any work interruptions.  It is definitely a discipline!”

Jennifer continues: “It is no secret that people and businesses are moving faster than ever. Instead of staring at your phone obsessing about work texts and emails, try out some of the available apps to help you manage the stress. There are apps to help you with breathing, scheduling, and organizing that can help you on your path to less stress.”

>See also: 39% of employers fail to offer mental health support

Tara O’Sullivan, CMO at Skillsoft, agrees: “With April having been Stress Awareness Month, now is the time to raise the profile of workplace wellbeing and kick off programmes that will help and support employees.

“With employee wellbeing increasingly being viewed as a strategic priority by organisations across the UK, equipping workers with the resources and awareness they need to nurture their own mental health will benefit everyone.”

Workplace culture is key

“Stress is all around us – at home, on the commute, at work, and even on vacation. When you factor in ‘always-on’ connectivity and the global nature of many of our workplaces, it’s no surprise that stress has become a 21st-century epidemic,” says Bethany Allee, Head of Marketing at Cybera.

“As part of the leadership team of a rapidly growing tech firm, a big part of my responsibility is to look after, and look out for, my team.

“The key is to recognise and acknowledge our mental health needs. Get it out in the open. Create a culture which says it’s OK to take a break, it’s OK to say you’re not OK, and one that celebrates the mental wellbeing of your employees. Engaged employees are our number one asset – and without them, our company won’t succeed.”

>See also: Lawyers warn ‘one size fits all’ fix is not an elixir for workplace stress

Tackling work-related stress

Mark Rogan, Application Security Supervisor at WhiteHat Security, places emphasis on the importance of teamwork in reducing stress. “The key to any workforce is teamwork,” he suggests.

“The benefits of getting to know your employees, their lives and struggles cannot be underestimated. Taking the time to ensure you are treating your team well and that they are comfortable in their jobs will help ensure they will put the extra effort into their day jobs and should result in better cohesion throughout the company – all of which helps to relieve stress.”

There can be many contributing factors to stress in the workplace and understanding these issues is key for employers in order to manage them. 

Michel Spruijt, General Manager, EMEA at Ergotron believes that: “Leadership and HR teams are becoming more familiar with advancements in technology that can boost movement in the workplace and we are seeing an increase in the implementation of technologies such as sit-stand solutions to give employees the ability to move more.

“Increasing movement within the workplace will not only help combat stress but will help to keep employees physically fit and avoid the health risks associated with sedentary working.”

Stress in IT

Stephen Moore, Vice President and Chief Security Strategist at Exabeam points out how high-stress jobs, such as those in the C-Suite, can be better managed. “For CISOs to succeed in today’s hostile security climate, they must be able to identify and address as many of the potential pitfalls surrounding them as possible, both internally and externally,” says Stephen. 

“Doing so helps minimise the chance of unwelcome ‘nasty surprises’, which often only appear at the most inopportune moments. Unfortunately, many CISOs fail to do this, making what’s already a stressful job almost impossible.

“There are three most commonly overlooked pitfalls: The inability to execute a swift security response at the critical moment, failure to properly align with senior management expectations, and lacklustre c-suite support and visibility when/where it counts.

“All of these can be easily resolved through due diligence and effective communication.  But if left unchecked, they can quickly prove a CISO’s undoing. By addressing these challenges head-on and leaving nothing to chance, a savvy CISO can quickly find themselves as an outlier in the average tenure statistics – and their stressful job will be more manageable.”

Alan Conboy, from the office of the CTO at Scale Computing agrees, analysing how organisations can help remove stresses related to IT.  “The idea that technology can self-heal, for instance, or that it can be designed to eliminate some of the familiar complexities of identifying, mitigating and correcting infrastructure problems is now part of the design and product philosophies of forward-thinking companies,” he explains.

“The addition of machine intelligence is also helping remove some of the stress IT professionals manage on a daily basis, allowing them to re-focus on tasks which are of much greater benefit to the individuals and business overall. We have taken that approach and it’s helping to eliminate stress across numerous vertical use cases – allowing businesses to stop worrying about their IT,” concludes Alan.

We are moving into an age where email and smartphones are allowing us to take work with us wherever we go. This ‘always-on’ culture is affecting our mental health, and not allowing employees to switch off entirely. Mental Health Awareness Week should enable employers to reflect on how they can best manage stress in teams and help employees feel as supported as possible. It’s never too late to make a change.

>See also: Study finds diverse members of the tech sector experience discrimination and stress