With the dark winter months upon us – what steps are you taking to encourage employee wellbeing?

According to a recent study, four in ten UK adults are ‘close to breaking point’ at work. The survey by the CABA found that employees lose an average of 5 hours of sleep each week because of the pressures they face at work, while also uncovering that the average working adult feels stressed for almost a third of their working day.

Stress is known to have a number of potential knock-on effects and can impact both mental and physical health if left unchecked.

For employers, the impact of stress, anxiety and poor mental health can also amount to a significant issue. A 2017 government report found that poor employee mental health cost UK employers £42bn a year – equating to around £1300 per employee. Another study found that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions.

As a result, a growing number of employers are taking employee wellbeing more seriously – with many looking at ways to promote better wellbeing. This is particularly important during the dark winter months when it can be more difficult to self-motivate and when some employees may suffer from SAD Syndrome (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

Here are four ways in which employers can aim to stop stress in its tracks and encourage better employee mental wellbeing.

Get active

Physical activity is well known to be a mood-booster and encouraging workers to take time out of their day to undertake some form of exercise is a popular choice for employers. Whether providing an incentive to walk or cycle to work, organising a discount scheme with a local gym, introducing ‘walking meetings’ or simply encouraging staff to go for a walk during their lunch break can all be helpful.

Mind over matter

Mindfulness and meditation are increasingly been seen as some of the key ways to cope with and tackle stress. For employees, these techniques could help to clear the mind, so that the causes of stress can be identified and problems can be handled in a calmer, more measured manner. Although it can be difficult to find time for such techniques during the working day, arranging for a yoga or pilates instructor to come into the workplace and conduct a class – perhaps during lunchtime – is something that many employers are introducing.

Managing change

One of the most common triggers for increased stress at work is change – be it a relatively small change such as a new IT system or a wide scale overhaul of team structure. Communication is key when it comes to change management, and employers should hold regular updates with staff to obtain feedback, identify any pending problems and answer questions employees may have.

Communication

The causes of stress can be far and wide and it’s important to recognise that every individual will have a different tolerance for workplace stress. One way in which employers can try to identify those employees that are struggling before anything more serious develops is to conduct regular one-to-ones or staff appraisals. Ensuring line managers are trained to spot the signs of stress and how to deal with it can also go a long way.