Businesses should be aware of their duty to their employees and be able to recognise the causes of workplace stress. But what about the “why?”

When considering your responsibility to your workforce as an employer, it is vital you understand why you should take action to manage workplace stress.

Aside from the satisfaction of being a great employer, there are some significant benefits to protecting your people from workplace stress.

1. Building resilience to increase productivity and profitability

It’s irrefutable that employees who manage their stress effectively or experience less stress are happier, more resilient, and consequently more productive.

Less workplace stress means fewer instances of presenteeism, where people are physically present at work but not fully engaged or performing to their usual standard. Workplace stress also contributes to more long-term absences; less stress means fewer absences.

When a business has worked hard to minimise or manage causes of workplace stress, the energy of the working environment is more positive. Staff who are well taken care of are more focused and engaged; rather than distracted or drained by stress-inducing issues.

More resilient staff leads to increased productivity, which leads to improved profitability. Profit improves when employees are supported by the business and protected from and supported through workplace stress.

2. Workplace stress has a broader impact on your workforce

Like any community of people, negativity in the workplace can spread like wildfire. If there is one person experiencing workplace stress, it’s unlikely to remain ‘contained’ for long.

The stressed-out employee might vent to their colleagues and encourage others to jump on board with their dissatisfaction. The trust that colleagues have in the business may be adversely affected when they perceive unmanaged workplace stress in others.

When the business doesn’t step in to manage workplace stress, colleagues may feel obligated to support their stressed-out work-friend. By taking on the employer’s responsibility in supporting their colleague, their own mental health could be affected.

Unless you address the root cause, not even personnel changes will resolve the issue. In this case, you’re also more likely to lose hard-working, conscientious employees because they’re least able to tolerate rampant negativity.

3. Reduce the chance of legal or regulatory repercussions

If someone leaves your company to escape a vortex of workplace stress, they may look to take legal or regulatory action against you for failing to protect their mental health.

The kinds of legal actions that they can take include:

  • Discrimination: where the ex-employee claims workplace stress arose from potentially discriminatory behaviour, such as not accommodating mental health conditions.
  • Constructive dismissal: where the ex-employee claims they had no choice but to leave because of the employer’s conduct.
  • Bullying and victimisation: where the ex-employee cites being othered, made to feel unwelcome, or outright harassed.

Under UK law, employers have a duty of care to protect the health and safety of all employees while at work. If your workplace does not have an adequate system to manage stress, your organisation could be liable.

There is always the chance that legal or regulatory action will be unsuccessful, but either way, you may incur:

  • Costs to retain legal representation
  • Loss of time, energy, and resources to fight a case
  • Subject access requests that lead to further legal issues.

4. It’s better to retain talent than to replace it

For many people experiencing workplace stress, handing in their resignation is the only solution.

In 2022, retention is becoming more of a challenge. If you lose someone to workplace stress and don’t address the root cause, you will face two significant problems:

  1. Finding someone to replace the departing employee
  2. Experiencing the same cycle with their successor in the near future.

Retention challenges have obvious consequences; the cost of recruitment, knock-on effects on company productivity, and the impact on the team left picking up the slack in the meantime.

If an employer wants the best talent, they need to provide staff with what they want. Let’s look at an example.

A manager won’t consider a remote working arrangement for an employee at a busy firm. The employer isn’t legally obligated to agree, so the employee reluctantly resigns.

The employer begins recruiting for a replacement. In a post-lockdown recruitment market, remote working capabilities are at the top of everyone’s list. The employer refuses to adapt their policy, so their talent pool is smaller, salary demands are higher, and the business suffers.

If you don’t solve the problem today, you will keep running into the same issue.

5. Aligning treatment of staff with company values

As the public rate more organisations on their values, how employers take care of their staff has significant consequences for their reputation and future growth.

Recruitment giants like Indeed now encourage “company reviews” where past and current staff submit insight to build an accurate profile of employee benefits, progression opportunities, and company culture.

Consistent mismanagement of workplace stress can lead to poor company reputation, affecting recruitment capabilities and profitability. 

And you don’t need to be a global company to feel the sting. Local reputation can have a substantial impact on recruitment. If word of stressful working environments gets around, recruitment efforts may fall short, and businesses can fail to thrive and grow.

Finally, customers are becoming more conscious consumers. If a company tweets about their “fantastic” company values and the comment section is full of valid claims from staff to the contrary, customers can take note and adjust their spending habits accordingly.

How to prevent workplace stress

Knowing what causes workplace stress and understanding why it’s so important to minimise it doesn’t mean your staff will never experience it.

Where there are humans gathered, you will inevitably find stress. As an employer, you are almost certain to deal with stress-related issues in your business journey.

That’s why prevention is key to managing workplace stress. It is always cheaper and easier to prevent workplace stress than to hope against hope that your business and your people are magically immune to its effects.

As an independent HR Consultant, I can help you identify areas of risk which could lead to workplace stress and implement effective preventative action. To discover what kinds of actions you can take to manage your workplace stress, check out next month’s blog post.