Employee stress levels, which rose sharply during the pandemic, continue on an upward trajectory, according to a new survey from Statistics Canada.1 More than 20% of Canadian employees (4.1 million people) reported high or very high levels of work-related stress. “There’s no doubt that workplace stress has increased drastically since the pandemic,” says WSPS Workplace Mental Health Consultant Kelly Hultink.
Workload and work-life balance were the highest stressors reported by survey respondents. “That’s not surprising,” says Kelly. ”Organizations have been drastically impacted by change over the last few years. Lack of resources, long hours, training and retention are some of the factors contributing to workload and increasing stress levels.” Those stressors don’t disappear the minute you walk out the door.
Personal stress is also at an all-time high, says Kelly. “We are all worried about so many things – the cost of food, housing and supplies, high interest rates, our family’s well-being, and the impact of wildfires, smoke, flooding, and other extreme weather events. When you go to work, you can’t separate out the personal and work-related stressors. They are cumulative.”
A stress overload can lead to fatigue, lack of sleep, illness, mental health issues, lack of focus, and at work, lost productivity and efficiency, absenteeism, and turnover, says Kelly. “It’s in an employer’s best interest to recognize the high stress load employees are carrying, work to reduce workplace stressors, and help employees lower their overall stress,” says Kelly. Here are 9 ways to do that.
- Make sure your workplace is psychologically healthy. A heavy workload and poor work-life balance are only two factors that can increase employee stress. Other factors can include poor leadership skills, a toxic organizational culture, lack of communication, racism or bias and poor growth opportunities. Take a look at all 13 factors that can affect stress levels and mental well-being and take steps to improve the psychological health of your workplace, advises Kelly.
- Embrace flexible work hours. Flex hours are a win/win for employers and employees. Instead of taking an entire day off, which could affect production schedules, employees can come in early or leave late in order to pick up kids or go to a doctor’s appointment while ensuring the job gets done.
- Institute a good change management plan. Change can trigger feelings of fear and lack of control among employees, which creates stress. If you are making changes, like introducing new technology, communicate all aspects of how it will work, what the benefits are, and how people will be trained.
- Provide opportunities for employees to discuss their concerns and ask questions. It’s important to acknowledge and understand what employees are feeling about the stresses they are under, and to show compassion. Try informal team chats in person or online, conduct surveys or meet with employees directly.
- Provide leadership training. Equip leaders with the proper skills to lead their team, build trust, create a positive safety culture and encourage engagement.
- Review workloads. If an employee feels overwhelmed, reduce their workload or help them prioritize. Set reasonable deadlines.
- Create opportunities for connection. Connecting with others can alleviate feelings of stress, depression and isolation. So whether your employees work at the office or at home, make sure you arrange coffee chats, team meetings, or other ways to connect. Be creative.
- Prioritize your employees’ mental health and well-being. Encourage employees to take vacations, get adequate rest, eat properly, use your EAP services, and participate in the health, wellness and stress reduction programs you offer. Consider offering resiliency training as well.
- Connect employees with community resources. View a list of free mental health supports in Ontario to share with your employees.
How WSPS can help
- Safety in 60 Seconds: Quick Videos on Psychological Safety
- Mental Health Infographic Poster
- How Managers Can Support Positive Mental Health (article)
- 9 Tips for Encouraging Frank and Open Talk (article)
- Mental Health Prevention Roadmap. Tools to help you develop a psychologically safe workplace.
- ThinkMentalHealth.ca, a website created by Ontario’s health and safety system partners that provides access to reputable and tested mental health tools, models and frameworks.
- Check out a variety of mental health and well-being resources to protect employees from mental harm.
Partners in Prevention: Health and Safety Regional Conferences – These fall regional conferences feature sessions on psychological safety:
- Forum North, Thunder Bay, November 7 and 8 – Workplace Wellness and Mental Health: Emerging Issues and Effective Management and Mindset Matters -How our Best Self Contributes to a Healthy Culture at Work
- Golden Horseshoe, Niagara Falls, ON, November 17 – Turning Stress and Adversity into Opportunity and Organizational Sustainability
- Psychological Health & Safety Awareness (20 min, eCourse)
- Leading for Psychological Safety in Challenging Times (1 day, classroom)
- Psychological Health & Safety for Workers (1 hour, eCourse)
- Psychological Health & Safety Awareness (20 minute, eCourse)
- Respect in the Workplace (90 minutes, eCourse)
- Workplace Mental Health: How Managers Should Respond (1/2 day, classroom)
- Workplace Mental Health: What Health and Safety Committees Should Know (1 day, classroom)
- Reducing Mental Health Stigma in the Workplace (30-minute eCourse, FREE)
The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date