Managing stress

With the arrival of a second wave of coronavirus, and tighter lockdown measures in place across the UK in response, business owners, managers and employees are facing unprecedented levels of stress at work and at home.

Indeed, we’ve all been affected. The Centre for Mental Health estimates that 10 million people in England alone may need support for their mental health as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So what can you do to alleviate stress, avoid taking it out on others and focus on keeping on top of your anxiety? How can you make sure that your business prioritises its workforce's mental health? Read on to find out.

What is stress?

Although we all know what it feels like to be stressed, it’s difficult to pin down what it is as there is no precise medical definition, according to Mind, the mental health charity.

The NHS defines stress as:

“the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. While a certain amount of stress can be motivational, too much can affect our mood, our body and our relationships.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines work-related stress as:

The response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope. Stress occurs in a wide range of work circumstances but is often made worse when employees feel they have little support from supervisors and colleagues, as well as little control over work processes.

Signs of stress

Reactions to stress naturally vary, but common signs often include:

  • physical symptoms, such as tiredness, headaches or an upset stomach
  • emotional signs, such as irritability, anxiety, impatience or depression

Some people who are under extreme stress can also have suicidal feelings. You can find advice on this at the website of Mind, the mental health charity

Dealing with stress

There are various steps you can take to deal with work-related stress.

The Health and Safety Executive has a section of its website devoted to this issue, while the NHS has a very accessible infographic. And the website of mental health charity Mind has a useful section on how to deal with the pressures that lead to stress.

Why employers should invest in mental health

Return on investment analysis, from professional services firm Deloitte, found “a complex but positive case for employers to invest in the mental health of their employees, with a return of £5 for every £1 spent (5:1).”

However, there is a large spread of potential returns from 0.4:1 up to nearly 11:1. Interventions with the highest returns tend to focus on preventative large‑scale initiatives, and on using technology or diagnostics to tailor support for those people most in need.

You can read more in its report Mental health and employers: refreshing the case for investment

Case studies

Case studies can be instructive, and we’ve gathered links to quite a few dealing with stress and broader mental health issues, across many sectors. Of course, you should seek expert advice before developing any in-house programmes.

The websites of Mental Health At Work and the Health and Safety Executive have a wide range of case studies.

Benchmarking your business

If your business has 20 or more employees and you’re interested in prioritising mental health in your workplace, you may want to benchmark against other businesses by taking part in the Mind Workplace Wellbeing Index.

Read key insights from Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index 2018-19.

Additional support

Managing mental health and wellbeing

Effective management of your staff's mental health and wellbeing could make your business more productive. Learn how to do it.

Cigna – Stress care from the experts

Business leaders talk about stress and how to deal with it.

Mental Health At Work

The Mental Health At Work website has plenty of resources for employers trying to improve their workplaces, including a toolkit for small businesses and the self-employed.

Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

Making business finance work for you

Our Making business finance work for you guide is designed to help you make an informed choice about accessing the right type of finance for you and your business.

Read the guide to making business finance work for you

Your previously read articles