Do you want to embed a culture of care into your workplace? In the final part of our series on workplace stress, we’re looking at ways employers and business leaders can look after the wellbeing of their staff.  

In my first blog on preventing workplace stress, we discussed the first two critical steps a business should take when considering how to tackle the levels of stress in their business; genuine analysis of the workplace, and examining terms and conditions.

For this blog, I want to delve into the final two strategies, as hopefully by now you realise that happy, healthy and supported staff are critical to a successful, productive business.

Implement employee assistance programmes

Everyone wants to work for a responsible and caring employer. Employee assistance programmes (otherwise known as EAPs) are employee benefits that support staff, both in helping develop strategies to prevent stress, and by offering help and support to staff experiencing physical and mental health problems, such as workplace stress and anxiety.  

Staff can access a range of therapies, medical consultations and advice. This helps to improve their wellbeing, reduce stress levels, and build up resilience – which in turn boosts productivity.  

It’s your responsibility to let your people know you offer an employee assistance programme. And it shows your staff you genuinely care. Accessing extra support through a helpline or counselling can equip your people with tools to help address, resolve and prevent workplace stress.  

The small charge you pay per employee towards your EAP will significantly reduce potential costs in the long run, minimising staff turnover and sick days. And it won’t cost your people a penny. Who doesn’t want that?  

What does an employee assistance programme include?

Deciding what to include in your EAP is like creating your own pizza; you choose the toppings based on the tastes of your staff.  

There are lots of EAP providers, and they offer a wide choice of support. Here are some popular options:  

  • A 24-hour helpline for staff if they’re struggling or want advice.
  • Private counselling sessions
  • Basic health support to help maintain your people’s mental and physical health. This can include physiotherapy, and complementary therapies.
  • Access to videos such as yoga, meditation and exercise programmes.
  • Access to financial education and support.
  • Online self-help guides on workplace stress, dealing with anxiety, resolving conflict, and self-care techniques.  

How do employee assistance programmes reduce workplace stress?  

Personal difficulties such as mental health struggles, family stress and physical pain don’t magically disappear as soon as your staff enter the office. Add personal problems to a high workload or staff conflict, and you’ve got a recipe for burnout, overwhelm and workplace stress.    

Employee assistance in action

Take the example of Emily. Emily was struggling with her workload. Her projects had fallen behind schedule, and clients were unhappy. Emily cried with her manager, saying she had too much work to do. She revealed that it wasn’t just work affecting her; she felt anxious about her marriage.  

Emily accessed counselling through the employee assistance programme. A few months later, she felt better in herself, and her work was back on track. She’d even got a promotion!

If Emily hadn’t had access to counselling through work, she may have taken long-term leave due to stress, further impacting her mental health and negatively impacting the business.

Even a small investment in your EAP can make a massive difference to your staff and your business. Look after your people, and they’ll look after you.

encourage and facilitate leisure activity

Do you have a treat table at work where everyone can help themselves to a pick-me-up after a busy morning?

What if, alongside boosting your people’s blood sugar, you also provided people with the means to get their blood pumping and enjoy some exercise? Or to take some time out for a creative break that makes folks feel ready for the day’s challenges?

Imagine what your staff will be capable of if they’re physically and mentally supercharged!

what kind of activities can help reduce workplace stress?

The world’s your oyster when it comes to choosing activities. Here are some suggestions:

  • Physical activities like lunchtime walks, ‘Couch to 5k’ support groups, monthly fitness challenges or bike rides.
  • Meditation, mindfulness and yoga classes.
  • Creative lunch clubs. One of my clients uses a service that sends out flat pack modelling kits where staff sit and make their models together.
  • Knitting circles. These groups are hugely popular and a fantastic tonic for mental health.
  • Book clubs, life drawing classes, jewellery making, and more!
  • Well being hour. One of my clients provides 1 hour per week, per employee to allow them to pursue whatever wellbeing activity they wish. This is not their lunch break, but time to think and act on their own wellbeing.

Gather feedback from staff before arranging an activity to find out what floats their boat. This means you can give your people classes they’ll enjoy. 

How do leisure activities reduce workplace stress?

If you’re reading this and thinking, “This sounds silly. Surely a bit of jumping around or painting won’t make a difference to my staff?” you’d be forgiven. But enriching activity can work wonders for our mental health, and what’s more, it’s fun! 

As a responsible business leader, you don’t need to remind people about the importance of being healthy; instead, you can give people choices.

Organising optional leisure and creative activities in the workplace boosts energy and wellbeing, reduces stress and improves productivity. And moving the body and engaging the mind will help folks smash it at work! 

Your staff will notice and appreciate that you’re paying for the extra stuff that makes them feel better, and they’ll associate that feeling with your business. Feel-good vibes all round!

some guidelines to consider setting up activities

  • Employees don’t want to feel pressured into doing something. I’d advise gentle encouragement, letting staff know involvement is optional but that they’re likely to feel good and learn something new if they participate.
  • Ensure you schedule classes inside work hours, for example, within the working day or at lunchtime. Let staff know they can still join in AND get time to eat lunch or nip to the shops. 
  • No talking about work. Make it clear that it’s a work-free space, so people can switch off.
  • No hierarchies. Everyone is equal, regardless of job title.

Keep an eye out for those who say: “I just don’t have time for that stuff.” They may just be a ticking timebomb of workplace stress, so take that opportunity to ensure they don’t detonate! Find out whether they need support and, if necessary, reassess their workload. 

Giving your people a choice to dip in and out of activities is the key to protecting your people from workplace stress.

If you’re interested in unlocking the power of your people by giving them what they need to thrive, book a consultation call with me, and I can support you in moving through these steps and those we explored in the previous post so you can forge an exciting new future for your business.