How to address workplace stress for Mental Health Awareness Week– Forum of Private Business

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With over 12 million working days lost to stress each year, Mental Health First Aid England’s Workplace Lead, Jaan Madan, highlights why it’s important for businesses of every size to take practical steps to tackle workplace stress.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 is here and this year its organiser, the Mental Health Foundation, asked the question ‘Stress: are we coping?’. At Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, we have partnered with the Mental Health Foundation to help launch the results of the largest UK stress survey.

What’s the impact of stress?

The research reveals a generational divide in how millennials and baby boomers experience workplace stress. Over a quarter (28 per cent) of millennials said they feel that powering through stress at work is expected, compared to only 12 per cent of baby boomers. Stress also impacts productivity across the generational divide with over a third (34 per cent) of millennials stating they’ve been less productive due to stress compared to only 19 per cent of baby boomers.

Whatever their age, many employees are struggling to speak up about stress. Across both generations the report found that, on average, only 14 per cent of people feel comfortable talking to a manager about stress.

These findings are reflected in numbers from the Health and Safety Executive who find that every year around half a million people experience work-related stress, depression and anxiety, which results in the loss of more than 12 million working days. Stress can easily arise from the pressure to be ‘always on’ and the Mental Health Foundation research published this week reveals just under a third of people (32 per cent) worry about work on their own time. The effects of this can be felt particularly by those working for SMEs, therefore reminding employees to take breaks and encouraging them to switch off from work can help.

Starting the conversation

Tackling unhealthy levels of stress in the workplace starts with a conversation – one that everyone should be empowered to have, whatever their position within an organisation. SMEs in particular can play an important role in addressing the stigma around mental health at work. They can often be more flexible, implementing workplace changes more quickly to help employees feel confident and supported when talking about issues like stress.

MHFA England this week has launched the ‘Address Your Stress’ toolkit: a set of free, simple and practical tips and tools to help everyone better understand and manage their stress levels. We want to empower people to talk about stress and ensure it’s something everyone feels comfortable addressing in every workplace.

In our workplace, we start all line management meetings with a focus on the individual’s wellbeing. This provides our staff with the opportunity to raise any concerns and have an open and frank conversation with their manager, all of whom are trained Mental Health First Aiders. If work-related stress is impacting an employee’s mental health, we’re able to take steps to look at how we can best support them – whether that’s signposting them to self-help information, our Employee Assistance Programme or professional services. For those in managerial roles to consider employee wellbeing in this way is particularly important for SMEs, where leaders are often more visible and work more closely with employees.

Whilst stress can motivate us, too much stress, too often, can have a negative impact on our wellbeing. As employers and employees, we all have a part to play in creating healthy working environments. Looking at how we manage and talk about stress is a key part of this.

So, as we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week, let’s all take a moment to reflect on whether we and those around us are coping, and if not, take action to address our stress.

Download the ‘Address Your Stress’ toolkit and find out more about Mental Health First Aid training for your workplace


Jaan Madan is the Workplace Lead at Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England CIC, and heads up the organisation’s engagement with workplaces in a broad range of sectors. Jaan has been involved with MHFA England’s work for over a decade, first training as an instructor in 2009 and then going on the join the National Training team, a body of expert trainers responsible for teaching and mentoring new instructors.

In his time at MHFA England Jaan has been involved in developing and revising content for MHFA England’s growing range of training courses, including a new eLearning MHFA One Hour course for workplaces. In recent years he has helped to oversee the growth of the organisation’s business-to-business offer, both to corporate and government bodies. Jaan and his team work with organisations of all sizes, helping them to use MHFA training to build and enhance their approaches to workplace wellbeing to drive ‘whole organisational’ change supportive of mentally healthier working environments.