‘’Let’s start the conversation…’
‘It’s ok to say…’
When it comes to stress, many workplace initiatives and campaigns focus almost exclusively on getting people to talk about stress. But I don’t think we actually have a problem with getting people to talk about stress. In fact, we seem to be talking about it all the time. And therein lies the problem. I think we talk about it too much.
Rates of workplace stress show no sign of declining with 76% of workers in the UK experiencing moderate to high levels of stress (Champion Health, 2023). Talking about stress clearly isn’t changing it. In fact, it’s well known that over-talking about a problem, without making any changes, can actually perpetuate and make it worse. Maybe it’s time to change our approach to how we tackle spiralling rates of stress in the workplace?
ACTION CHANGES THINGS
When I saw the theme for Stress Awareness Month 2023, I breathed a sigh of relief.
Action really does change things. And when we take a step back and really think about it, it makes perfect sense. No one ever got fit by talking about going to the gym. You actually have to take some action. And it’s exactly the same with your mental health and stress.
At Fika, we promote preventative action to manage stress, and have been banging the ‘action over talking’ drum for years. Via our tech, we deliver mental fitness micro-training exercises to workplaces across the UK and US to offset the risk of mental health decline.
And our approach is guided by the 3 core principles.
- Address the cause, not the symptom. Stress is a symptom. A symptom of poor systems, working practices, norms and behaviours. Yet too often we stop at ‘stress,’ meaning that we never truly understand what’s causing it. And if we don’t understand what’s causing stress, it’s near impossible to take the correct course of action to change it. No amount of breathing or meditation will help if the root of the problem isn’t addressed. At best they will only serve as sticking plasters. At Fika, we’ve worked hard to understand the causes of workplace stress, so that appropriate action can be taken.
- Identify the workplace practices and behaviours that are contributing to workplace stress. Too often we get bogged-down by large scale wellbeing surveys that lack sufficient detail. Because while these surveys might tell us that our workers are stressed (which we probably already know), they rarely tell us why. And the WHY is the most important thing to understand if we’re going to take appropriate action. At Fika, because we understand the importance of understanding the ‘why’, we’ve developed a behavioural insights system that organisations can use to better understand the behaviours and practices that are negatively affecting their workers (e.g. agendaless meetings, a lack of designated focus time, poorly defined goals and targets). This ensures that appropriate actions can then be put in place to stop stress at its source.
- Commit to small manageable actions. Once teams and individuals in the workplace understand which practices and behaviours aren’t serving them, they need to commit to small manageable actions to change them. As an example, if a team is negatively affected by poorly managed meetings which waste time, a valuable activity to kick-off each meeting is to agree a ‘goal’ and ‘roles.’ In this activity, team members are encouraged to identify the ‘one thing’ that they need to achieve in the meeting to keep it focused and efficient. And once this is agreed, everyone shares what their role in achieving that goal will be. If they can't articulate the role that they’re there to serve, they don’t need to be there.
So often, stress is a reflection of poor working practices and behaviours. The best way to manage stress is to take action, and stop it at the source.