Postdate: 05 February 2018
‘I have too many things going on in my head.’ This is something you will not often hear employees say when they are totally stressed out. 57 percent of (young) managers do not adequately detect stress at work. How do you discover that mental stress is slowly taking hold of your employees?
Work stress is stress due to, or in the workplace, while mental stress may be an expression of personal problems. These two often occur together hand in hand. A heavy workload is the major cause of stress. About 54 percent of employees have a sense of continuously being left behind the facts. Personal characteristics and a poor work-life balance play a role in this. Not every employee is equally susceptible to stress, but environmental factors don’t make it any easier. Work phones are never turned off, something still needs to get finished at 9 pm. This sometimes goes on for weeks, if not months.
Mental stress manifests itself in both physical and mental signs and symptoms. Individual cases of mental stress are sometimes hard to detect, but it helps if you can recognise most of them.
1. From being committed to not committed
Only 15 percent of the one billion workers who work fulltime worldwide, is truly committed. At first, they still play an important role in meetings or brainstorming sessions. This changes over time. When an employee takes his/her distance, it may be due to having too large a workload or inefficient processes operating within the company.
2. Getting no energy from work
Many employees - depending on their job - do work they can do, but not what they like doing. This means they get no energy from doing it. As a manager, ask them this question at some stage: are you really enjoying your work?'. The answer will surprise you.
3. Always ‘on’
Some staff are always ready for everything and everyone. This is mostly due to the nature of the beast. It is the over-committed, hard workers that find it difficult to say 'no', even outside of their working hours. Does an employee often send emails in the evening or in his or her holidays? To always be very busy with work, leaves no time to recharge. Speak to them about this.
4. Physical complaints
Vague pain symptoms are often a clear cause of an employee experiencing mental stress. Does an employee complain of headaches, fatigue, back and neck problems? Enough reason to take action as their manager.
5. Cynical and moody
Is a typically cheerful employee becoming increasingly cynical over time? A change of behaviour often indicates an underlying problem. Especially if this goes hand in hand with an anxious demeanour, many complaints, no longer being able to cope with changes and irritability. Do not ignore such behavioural signals.
6. Worse performance
A signal that is most obvious, but that is no less important. When an employee is less productive, for example by missing deadlines, making unnecessary mistakes, only half completing work, skipping breaks and having conflicts with colleagues. Often, a lack of overview and concentration plays a role. The employee has too much to do, which does not benefit the quality of his/her work.
It is clear that mental health of your employees is important to the success of your organisation. This is why it is crucial that mental stress among employees is detected promptly, but as a manager, do not forget to really do something about it. Preferably before it's too late. Make mental stress a topic for open discussion. For every employee, mental stress will manifest itself in a different way. Do not necessarily think of big changes that cost a lot of money and time either. Small adjustments, such as a change of environment and tasks, providing interventions that promote mental health or more freedom for self-development, can ensure that employees are better able to cope with mental stress.