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Stress Awareness Month: How HR can Tackle Stress at Work

Stress Awareness Month has been held every April since 1992, marking a day to increase public awareness about the causes and cures for stress. This past year has presented mental health challenges for almost every individual.

According to TheHRDirector, “when comparing pre-pandemic levels in March 2019 to March 2021, the number of stress sickness days recorded has increased by 113%”. This is quite telling and indicates the importance of addressing wellbeing, mental health and continue to take action to prevent stress.

Here at Virgin Incentives, we take people’s health and personal circumstances very seriously. We work with each employee on an individual basis to ensure our HR and leadership team do whatever they can to avoid additional stress on our people. This has inspired us to put some ideas together which your HR and team leads can focus on for Stress Awareness Month in your organisation and how one can recognise and prevent stress.

Take part in the challenge

The official theme this year is to regain connectivity, certainty, and control, therefore encourage your teams to take part in the 30-day challenge. The idea is to pick out one action per day, to improve physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. 30 days is the amount of time it takes for a habit to form so this month-long challenge is designed to promote and maintain a healthy mindset long-term.

Take the time to communicate

In line with this year’s theme, Stress Awareness Month is a good time for business leaders to stop and think about how they communicate within their teams. An easy way to prevent stress is to ensure employees are clear about their job roles, targets and expectations. Managers should also ensure they are sensitive in the way they communicate and check in frequently with their team to get an update on mental health, as well as managing individual workloads. Destigmatising the impact of stress in the workplace can help nurture a culture where employees feel they can talk openly and freely without judgement. At Virgin Incentives, we call this building a “better together” culture for employees and managers alike.

Implementing wellness programs

In the past year, it’s fallen to HR leaders globally to find new and innovative ways to not only boost staff morale but also keep wellbeing as the number one priority. For example, Virgin Incentives has provided free membership to the Headspace app to all its team members. A team mindset training app, Headspace provides science-based mindfulness, movement, and sleep support. Additionally, wellness programs could include organising wellbeing days where your teams take part in activities off-site to boost their mental health.

Flexible work arrangement

Many businesses offer flexible working, and this isn’t a new concept. However, some organisations tend to focus on the benefits of attracting and retaining talented individuals, instead of relieving potential stress factors. With flexible schedules that allow employees to be productive at home as opposed to an office and hours that suit people’s preferences, there will be less time pressure strains at work and people can maintain more of a work-life balance.

Teach people how to relax

We all need to think about self-care and taking time out of our day to do something that will benefit us. Techniques such as meditation, yoga and breathing control are all integral ways to melt away tension and boost employees’ mental wellbeing. At Virgin Incentives, we run bi-weekly chair yoga sessions at lunchtime to encourage people to stop, check in with themselves and stretch. Our people feel reinvigorated, relaxed, and ready to perform.

Establish boundaries

In today’s digital world, it’s easy to be connected and available 24/7. Therefore, Stress Awareness Month is an ideal time for HR leaders to encourage their teams to establish some work-life boundaries. This might mean not checking emails in the evening or answering any phone calls during dinner. To avoid burnouts, employees should be actively encouraged to take their annual holidays (even if they can’t do a lot with them now) as these are very important for switching off from work.

Rewards in the form of experiences

Another way to prevent stress and show your employees you’re grateful for all their hard work is by gifting them a corporate reward. The simple act of a reward will eliminate any stress they may feel in not fulfilling their job role. Whether you send them on a spa day to replenish their batteries or gift them a day out they can spend with loved ones, an experiential reward will help them relieve stress in a fun way.

We recently ran a survey and established that 71% of people surveyed wanted an experience over a physical gift, so as 50% of real life experiences are now re-opening, it’s a great time to think about a fun and memorable reward for your people.

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